News and updates on research on livestock value chains by the International Livestock Research Institute and partners

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dairy hubs for delivery of technical and advisory services: Lessons from the East Africa Dairy Development project

The vision of the East Africa Dairy Development project is to transform the lives of 179,000 smallholder farming families (approximately 1 million people) by doubling their household dairy income in 10 years.

To achieve this goal, the project seeks to harness information to support decision making and innovation, expand smallholder dairy farmers' access to markets for their milk, and increase farm productivity and economies of scale.

The project uses a hub approach to improve dairy farmers' access to business services, inputs and markets. The dairy hubs facilitate the emergence and strengthening of networks of input and service providers as well as the establishment of mechanisms for farmers to access credit.

On 5-7 December 2012, Jo Cadilhon, agricultural economist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), attended a stakeholder workshop on the role of the public and private sectors in the delivery of livestock services in Africa. He presented the concept of dairy hubs for delivery of advisory and technical services to smallholder dairy production systems, based on the experiences of the East Africa Dairy Development project.

Below is the presentation:


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ILRI study calls for a formal grading system for export quality Somali livestock

Batch of Somali goats
Batch of export quality Somali goats (photo credit: Terra Nuova).

Somalia is the largest exporter of live animals from Africa. The country, however, does not have a formal system of grading livestock and livestock products. Such a system is needed to enforce quality control for purposes of stabilizing and expanding international livestock trade. The system would also ensure that the prices of livestock and livestock products are determined on the basis of defined standards.

As a step towards formalizing the existing informal grading system used in Somalia for export quality livestock, researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Terra Nuova have identified improved animal nutrition and livestock breeding programs as two possible interventions.

Increasing the quality and availability of animal feed during the long journey from the point of initial purchase to the point of slaughter will lead to enhanced livestock body condition. Body condition was identified as the most important trait used in grading of livestock for export.

Targeted livestock breeding and selection programs will, in the long term, enhance livestock body conformation which was found to be the second most important trait in grading of livestock.

These recommendations are based on a collaborative study by ILRI and Terra Nuova to assess and document information related to the grading of export quality Somali livestock. The specific objectives of the study were to:

  • identify the grading system in use for the four types of export quality Somali livestock (camels, cattle, goats and sheep) in selected markets, based on brokers' and traders' local knowledge;
  • analyze and document the rationale behind the identified grading system;
  • evaluate the relationship between the grading system and price; and
  • ascertain the validity of the grading system in real market environment.

Sex, age, body condition and body conformation were identified as the four main traits used in grading of Somali livestock destined for export. The levels within these traits were: sex (male or female); age (years or categorized as either immature or mature), body condition (excellent, good or fair) and conformation (excellent, good or fair).

The interactions of the alternative levels of these traits gave rise to three commercial grades for export quality livestock, classified in decreasing order of quality as grades I, II, III. However, these grades varied depending on the destination of export and use of the animals.

The findings of the study will be a useful source of reference for regulatory agencies and others involved in formalizing and publicizing of Somalia's grading system for export quality livestock.

Download the discussion paper

Mugunieri L, Costagli R, Abdulle MH, Osman IO and Omore A. 2012. Improvement and diversification of Somali livestock trade and marketing: Towards a formalized grading system for export quality livestock in Somalia. ILRI Discussion Paper 22. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi.

Monday, December 10, 2012

ILRI study characterizes Somali chilled export meat value chain

Young goats in Hargeisa Market, Somaliland
Batch of young goats for slaughter and export of chilled meat, Hargeisa Market, Somaliland (photo credit: Terra Nuova).

Export-oriented pastoral livestock production is an important source of livelihood of the people of Somalia. The country is largely food deficient, with imports forming a significant proportion of basic food requirements and which are largely financed through earnings from exports of live animals and meat.

The export of meat products offers more avenues for increased earnings and tax revenue by exploiting the available opportunities for domestic value addition, than does live animal trade.

A collaborative research study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Terra Nuova characterized the Somali chilled export meat value chain in terms of actors, institutions and practices and provided an initial analysis of their profitability in handling four species of livestock.

The main objective of the study was to provide information that would enable development of strategies to improve the efficiency of the Somali chilled meat export value chain as a way of increasing incomes to market actors.

The study presents preliminary recommendations for public and private sectors. These focus on value addition and information sharing on what constitutes value, building of product identity and legally protecting its unique status, and coordination to address costs.

Download the research report

Negassa A, Baker D, Mugunieri L, Costagli R, Wanyoike F, Abdulle MH and Omore A. 2012. The Somali chilled meat value chain: Structure, operation, profitability and opportunities to improve the competitiveness of Somalia’s chilled meat export trade. ILRI Research Report 32. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

East Africa Dairy Development project unveils new-look website

Screen capture of the new website of the East Africa Dairy Development project. Check it out at
The website of the East Africa Dairy Development project has been redesigned and migrated to a new micro-site hosted by Heifer International, the institution that leads this collaborative project. The project's new web address is

The original web address,, will now redirect to the new address and no longer to the Wordpress site, Updates will no longer be published on the Wordpress site.

Please make note of this change and update your bookmarks accordingly so that you remain up to date with project news and updates.

About the East Africa Dairy Development project
The East Africa Dairy Development project is a regional industry development program implemented by Heifer International in partnership with the African Breeders Services Total Cattle Management, the International Livestock Research Institute, TechnoServe and the World Agroforestry Centre

The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of an agricultural development grant designed to boost the yields and incomes of millions of small farmers in Africa and other parts of the developing world so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty.

The vision of success for the  project is that the lives of 179,000 families – or approximately one million people – are transformed by doubling household dairy income by the tenth year through integrated intervention in dairy production, market access and knowledge application.

Monday, November 26, 2012

ILRI presents at the Ecohealth 2012 conference

Smallholder pig production in northern Viet Nam
Farmer Ma Thi Puong feeds her pigs on her farm near the northern town of Mieu Vac, Vietnam. Recent studies show that Ecohealth approaches are useful in assessing the prevalence of emerging zoonotic diseases in Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

EcoHealth is an emerging, multi-disciplinary field of study that examines how ecosystem changes affect human health so as to prevent new diseases from emerging.

International experts in this field met in Kunming, China from 15 to 18 October 2012 for the 4th biennial conference of the International Association for Ecology and Health (Ecohealth 2012). The theme of the conference was "Sustaining Ecosystems, Supporting Health".

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was represented at Ecohealth 2012 by a team of scientists working on food safety, zoonoses and emerging infectious diseases in the Southeast Asia region. Below are links to a selection of their presentations:

Applying participatory approach to study zoonoses in provinces of South Vietnam: Experiences and lessons learned

Ecohealth approaches in prevention of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases in southern Vietnam: A retrospective study 2008-2011

Ecosystem approaches to the better management of zoonotic emerging infectious diseases in Southeast Asia (EcoZD): Inputs, throughputs and outputs

Field building leadership initiative: Advancing Ecohealth in Southeast Asia

Framing the problem of emerging zoonotic disease risk using a One Health approach

Hygienic practices and microbial contamination of small-scale poultry slaughterhouses in peri-urban areas, Hanoi, Vietnam

Mapping the interface of poverty, emerging markets and zoonoses

South East Asia One Health University Network (SEAOHUN): Lessons learned

Strategies for adopting EcoHealth theory and practice: Lessons from action‐research on zoonotic diseases in Southeast Asia

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Good livestock management by all value chain actors can improve quality in the Ethiopian leather industry

Jean Joseph (Jo) CadilhonJo Cadilhon (left) recently joined the International Livestock Research Institute as an agricultural economist with the Changing Demand and Market Institutions team. From 6-9 November 2012, he was among several scientists and other agricultural stakeholders who took part in an international conference organized by CTA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme “Making the connection: Value chains for transforming smallholder agriculture”. He facilitated a session on capacity building in value chains and later during one of the conference field trips learned about an important value chain for livestock by-products: the Ethiopian leather industry. Below is his report.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was a partner organizer of the CTA conference on Making the connection: value chains for transforming smallholder agriculture held from 6 to 9 November 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

One of the conference field trips organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) focused on leather products so I joined it to discover this value chain for livestock by-products.

I learned that good management practices by all stakeholders in the chain are just as critical for the quality improvement of livestock by-products as it is for the quality and safety of food products derived from livestock.

Take the example of the leather industry in Ethiopia. Although selling animal hides for leather production is only a by-product for livestock producers, the local tanning industry can process up to 30,000 skins per day, producing leather for shoes and garments and creating significant employment, according to the Leather Industry Development Institute.

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia
Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia. Simple improvements in the practices of livestock value chain stakeholders, such as avoiding inflicting wounds on the skin of cattle during herding, could help improve the quality of Ethiopian leather goods. (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Crucially, simple improvements in herding, slaughtering, skinning and marketing practices in livestock value chains could help improve the quality of finished leather goods and thus increase the incomes for all value chain stakeholders.

For example, men’s shoes are cut out of cow skins. The various components of the shoes are cut from different areas of the skin: the shoulder and butt being stronger and of better quality than the skin from the belly and legs.

The job of the leather cutter is to optimize the number of shoe parts that can be cut out of one hide. If there are holes in the hide due to putrefaction of the skin before tanning, this decreases the number of shoe parts that can be cut out of one hide.

These holes are due to infected wounds in the skin. These wounds are usually inflicted on the animal during herding, slaughtering and skinning of the slaughtered animal.

Furthermore, there are usually several days before a hide reaches the tannery from the slaughterhouse through a very long chain of intermediary traders whereas the optimal time to preserve the quality of animal hides before tanning is just 24 hours.

This long time lag increases the likelihood of putrefaction of any wounds on the hides, thus decreasing the quality of the leather.

One indicator of leather quality is the homogeneity of the leather’s surface. When the live animal has been sick or infected by parasites scars and spots can appear on the skin, which then lead to stains and scars on the tanned leather.

The leather cutters and cobblers then have to work around these defects for fear of seeing the price of the final product depreciated.

Quality improvement in the Ethiopian livestock and leather industry is supported by ILRI,  the Italian Development Cooperation, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNIDO and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through linkages with the Leather Industry Development Institute.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New research project aims to improve smallholder livestock production and marketing in Botswana

Goats in Botswana
Goats awaiting sale at a market in Botswana. A new collaborative research project aims to improve smallholder livestock production and marketing in Botswana (photo credit: ILRI).

The smallholder sector produces most of Botswana’s meat and over 70% of the country’s agricultural gross domestic product.

Although past policy and research have focused on the beef export sector, rather little information has been generated on the circumstances and potential of the 80,000 smallholders who own most of the country’s cattle, and the 100,000 households that earn livelihoods from sheep and goats.

This leaves strategies and investments for rural development and livelihood generation without a basis in data and analysis.

For both cattle and small ruminants, more competitive smallholder systems can improve livelihoods.

Several factors constrain the production and marketing of surpluses by smallholders: poor animal health is one example, that is often made worse by the complexities of communal grazing, and by limited access to services.

A new 3-year research project, Competitive smallholder livestock in Botswana, asks the following questions, and engages partners in research industry and government to help answer them:
  • What are the characteristics of smallholder livestock producers in Botswana and what factors constrain their livelihoods?
  • How can livestock-related marketing systems in Botswana be improved for the benefit of smallholders and the rural population?

The project has three objectives:
  • To better define smallholder livestock production systems and to identify the factors affecting the productivity of smallholder livestock producers and assess their competitiveness 
  • To understand and improve conditions for market participation and value addition in markets for livestock, livestock products and inputs
  • To strengthen the capacity of agricultural education and extension

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is collaborating in this project with the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis and the Botswana Ministry of Agriculture.

The outcomes from the study will be improved and more sustainable livelihoods among smallholder livestock keepers, and increased uptake and use of scientific and economic knowledge by those providing services to smallholders.

The project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and runs from 1 September 2012 to 31 August 2015.

For more information, please contact Sirak Bahta (s.bahta @

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Innovative feed assessment tool to aid smallholder livestock farmers develop site-specific animal feeding options

ELF team conducts PRA exercise on feed assessment tools
The Ethiopian Livestock Feed project team carries out a participatory rapid appraisal in Godina near Debre Zeit, Ethiopia to test feed assessment tools (photo credit: ILRI/Kara Brown).

Smallholder livestock farmers stand to gain from better animal feeding options, thanks to an innovative tool that improves feed assessment by taking a broader approach to also analyze factors relating to production, marketing and input service provision and how these affect the quality and availability of animal feeds.

Conventional feed assessments normally focus just on the type of feed and how to boost its nutritive value so as to improve livestock productivity.

The new feed assessment tool (FEAST) builds on this by adopting a broader scope that takes into account the entire smallholder farming system.

It also uses rapid appraisals to quickly and systematically assess feed resources and demand within a particular farming system.

Why use FEAST?
  • It uses participatory approaches to draw on the knowledge and experiences of both farmers and researchers.
  • It is site-specific and thus is useful in designing and targeting of feed intervention strategies for a particular location.
  • It enables analysis of the importance of livestock in local livelihoods and the relative importance of feed-related problems that farmers face.
  • It gives an insight into key factors such as labour, input availability, credit, seasonality and markets for products.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been developing FEAST since 2009 and the tool has been tested in South Asia and Africa.

The collaborative East Africa Dairy Development project has used FEAST as an entry point for other feed-related interventions.

ILRI recently showcased FEAST at an exhibition on the sidelines of the 13th Biennial Scientific Conference of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) that was held on 22-26 October 2012 at the KARI Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

Under the theme, Showcasing agricultural products, technologies and innovations, the event featured some 500 exhibitors from all over the country.

The poster below, Developing site specific feed plans using the feed assessment tool (FEAST), gives a summary of how FEAST works, the advantages of using the tool and some sample outputs from the East Africa Dairy Development project.

Developing site specific feed plans using the feed assessment tool (FEAST) from ILRI

For more information about FEAST, please contact ILRI feed specialist Bernard Lukuyu (b.lukuyu @ or visit

Monday, October 01, 2012

Farmer trainers in western Kenya are key in disseminating farm technologies, new study shows

Fodder harvesting
Harvesting fodder on a dairy farm in Kenya. A new study in western Kenya shows that farmer trainers are effective agents in disseminating farm technologies (photo credit: East Africa Dairy Development Project).
Volunteer farmer trainers in western Kenya play important roles in promoting the adoption of agricultural technologies, a new study reports.

In addition, the use of farmer trainers in agricultural extension is a cost-effective method of disseminating technologies to farmers because it is sustainable beyond the lifetime of development projects.

These are among several findings of a study carried out to assess the effectiveness of farmer trainers in disseminating agricultural technologies in western Kenya.

The findings are published in an article in the October 2012 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension.

The principal author of the article Ben Lukuyu is a feed scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The co-authors of the study, which was funded by the East Africa Dairy Development Project, are from the World Agroforestry Centre and the Kenya Forestry Research Institute.

The farmer trainer method of agricultural extension involves farmers sharing their knowledge and experience with other farmers as well as conducting experiments.

Through this participatory approach, a large number of farmers in communities can be reached at low cost through multiplier effects whereby farmers act as the main agents of change and technology adoption in their communities.

The study found that farmer trainers commonly used methods such as farm visits, community gatherings and field days to disseminate information on soil fertility practices, use of crop residues, food crops, vegetables and livestock technologies.

Farmer trainers also played important roles such as mobilizing and training their fellow farmers, hosting demonstration plots and bulking and distributing planting materials.

“The results from the study will be useful to development programs keen on using low-cost, community-based dissemination approaches,” the authors of the paper conclude.

The authors further recommend that the farmer trainer approach be promoted by extension service providers such as governments, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

However, a cautionary note is sounded that the guidance provided for farmer trainer programs is suited to the conditions existing in western Kenya where the study was carried out and should therefore not be considered as best practices for uptake under general conditions.

Read the abstract of the article

Lukuyu B, Place F, Franzel S and Kiptot E. 2012. Disseminating improved practices: Are volunteer farmer trainers effective? Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension 18(5): 525-540.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

New ILRI website features research on agriculture associated diseases

Cattle herded home in the evening in Mozambique
Cattle coming in from the fields in the evening in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann). 

If you are interested in research on the links between agriculture and health, then check out the new AgHealth website, a web portal on research activities by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners on agriculture-associated diseases.

Prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases is one of four research components of the collaborative  CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition for Health, which is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The other three components are: value chains for enhanced nutrition; biofortification; and integrated agriculture, nutrition and health programs and policies.

ILRI leads the research component on prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases, which has over 20 projects under four major research activities:
For more information on ILRI's work on agriculture-associated diseases, please contact the research component leader Delia Grace (d.grace @

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

ILRI presents at the 13th conference of the International Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics

Boran cattle at Kapiti ranch in Kenya
Boran cattle at Kapiti Ranch, Kenya. Research by ILRI on the prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in Kenya featured during the 13th conference of the International Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics (photo credit: ILRI).

Some 12 scientists from the Markets, Gender and Livelihoods theme of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) attended the recently concluded 13th conference of the International Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics (ISVEE13) where they presented research findings on various topics related to veterinary epidemiology and economics including prevention and control of zoonotic diseases, the economics of animal disease control interventions, risk assessment in informal food markets and participatory disease surveillance.

The ISVEE13 conference took place on 20-24 August 2012 in Maastricht, the Netherlands under the theme, Building Bridges – Crossing Borders, highlighting the importance of embracing multi-disciplinary approaches to solve research problems related to veterinary epidemiology and economics.

Below are links to the posters and PowerPoint presentations (in SlideShare)


PowerPoint presentations
For more information on ILRI’s research on animal health, food safety and zoonoses, please contact Delia Grace (d.grace @

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ILRI presents at the 28th International Conference of Agricultural Economists

Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia
Cattle being watered at the Ghibe River in southwestern Ethiopia. The country's livestock sector supports the livelihoods of a large proportion of rural households (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

On 18-24 August 2012, some 1000 agricultural economics experts from around the world met in Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil for the 28th triennial International Conference of Agricultural Economists. The conference was organized by the International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE).

Under the theme, The Global Bio-Economy, the conference discussed several global challenges affecting the bio-economy, including food insecurity, natural resource management and food price crises, and possible ways of addressing these challenges.

A team of researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) attended the meeting and presented papers on various aspects of agricultural economics in developing countries, including the role of livestock in the Ethiopian economy, the competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in Vietnam and economic impact assessment of avian influenza control measures in Nigeria.

Other presentations covered the opportunities for intra-regional trade in staple food crops in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, the effects of decentralized forest management on household farm forestry in Kenya and the Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project, a research initiative jointly led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and ILRI aimed at better understanding gender and asset dynamics in agricultural development programs.

Friday, August 24, 2012

ILRI research on food safety in informal markets featured in special supplement of Tropical Animal Health and Production

Testing milk in Kenya's informal market
Testing milk in Kenya's informal milk market. New research studies have evaluated zoonotic health risks associated with urban dairy farming systems in Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

The August 2012 issue of the journal Tropical Animal Health and Production includes a special supplement on assessing and managing urban zoonoses and foodborne disease in Nairobi and Ibadan.

Featured in the special supplement are 10 research articles by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners from the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, the University of Ibadan and the University of Nairobi.

Click on the links below to read the abstracts of the articles (journal subscription required for access to full text)

For more information on ILRI’s research on animal health, food safety and zoonoses, please contact Delia Grace (d.grace @

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Study calls for integrated use of innovation systems in agricultural research for development

Pineapple farmer, Ntungamo District, Uganda
A pineapple farmer in Ntungamo District, Uganda. The Ntungamo Pineapple Innovation Platform is one of three case studies highlighted in a new journal article on innovation platforms for agricultural research for development (photo credit: Neil Palmer, CIAT).

A journal article published in the May 2012 issue of the International Journal of Agriculture and Forestry calls for a coordinated agricultural research and development strategy that links innovation platforms at continental, sub-regional, national and grassroots levels. This, the paper argues, would represent the best practices for comprehensive use of the innovation system approach.

The paper used three case studies from the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Program to examine strategies and approaches for the successful use of the innovation system approach in agricultural research for development.

Co-author Pamela Pali is a monitoring and evaluation specialist with the Poverty, Gender and Impact team at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya.

Co-author Jemimah Njuki, sociologist and gender specialist, is the former leader of ILRI's Poverty, Gender and Impact team. She left ILRI at the end of March 2012 and now works with CARE International. From her base in Tanzania, she heads a new program on smallholder women in agriculture called PATHWAYS which is being implemented in both Africa and Asia.

Access the full text article

Nyikahadzoi K, Pali P, Fatunbi AO, Olarinde LO, Njuki J and Adekunle AO. 2012. Stakeholder participation in innovation platform and implications for Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D). International Journal of Agriculture and Forestry 2(3): 92-100.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ILRI in the news: Are environmental changes spreading Rift Valley and Lassa fevers?

Cattle wade into the Awash River in Ethiopia
Cattle wade in the Awash River in Ethiopia. Changes in farming practices and forest cover are thought to be affecting the transmission of diseases from animals to people  (photo credit: ILRI).

An opinion piece by International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) veterinary epidemiologist Delia Grace in The Guardian's Poverty Matters Blog discusses ways in which environmental changes including farming practices, forest cover and reservoirs are thought to be affecting the spread of emerging infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to people.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New study maps global hotspots of poverty and zoonotic diseases

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya
Orma boran cattle crossing a river. A new study has mapped the global hotspots of poverty and human-animal diseases (photo credit: ILRI/R. Dolan).

A new study has mapped global hotspots of poverty and zoonoses (diseases transmissible between animals and humans) and found that a relatively small number of countries – notably India, Ethiopia, and Nigeria – have a disproportionate share of poor livestock keepers and zoonotic disease burden.

The study also revealed that the burden of human and animal diseases can be linked to just a few zoonoses. For this reason, targeting these zoonoses is likely to be an effective use of scarce resources.

These and other findings are contained in a new collaborative research report, Mapping of poverty and likely zoonoses hotspots, by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam.

The report to the UK Department of International Development (DFID) presents data and expert knowledge on poverty and zoonoses hotspots to inform prioritization of study areas on the transmission of disease in emerging livestock systems in the developing world, where prevention of zoonotic disease might bring greatest benefit to poor people.

In addition to mapping the hotspots of zoonoses and poverty, the study also identified gaps and opportunities for research to reduce the burden of disease for the zoonoses and regions identified.

These include: 
  • better understanding of the implications for intensification and emerging markets on zoonoses; 
  • models for zoonoses control in emerging markets; 
  • ecosystem models for management of zoonoses with a wildlife interface; 
  • improvement of surveillance for existing and new diseases; 
  • understanding the impacts multiple burdens of zoonoses in order to better allocate resources; and
  • technologies and innovation for detection, diagnosis, prevention, treatment and response. 
Download the report.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The imGoats project reflects on use of Outcome Mapping and innovation platforms to improve goat value chains

Group discussions at the imGoats project learning and reflection workshop
Group discussions at the imGoats project learning and reflection workshop, Udaipur, India, 2-6 July 2012 (photo credit: ILRI/Tezira Lore).

The imGoats project seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in semi-arid regions in India and Mozambique.

On 2-6 July 2012, the project teams from both countries met in Udaipur, India to take part in a learning and reflection workshop on the activities achieved so far and the work still remaining.

The five-day, intensive workshop gave the participants ample opportunity to discuss and share progress achieved by the teams in Rajasthan and Jharkhand in India and Vilanculos in Mozambique in order to learn from each other's experiences in using Outcome Mapping and innovation platforms to improve the functioning of goat value chains.

In addition, the teams were able to review their communication plans and refine their strategies towards identifying the communication outputs to be produced and activities to be undertaken in the final six months of the project.

"The agenda of the workshop was very dense but it is heartening to see that all the teams have made good progress. Outcome Mapping has helped us to adapt our planning and improve our work. The session on innovation platforms was useful for sharing experiences and frustrations, too, and how to overcome these," said imGoats project coordinator Saskia Hendrickx of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at the close of the workshop.

"We have six months left and a lot to do but there is a good team spirit and we can make it," Hendrickx added.

For more information about the workshop, check out the session notes on the imGoats wiki or read some reflections by ILRI postdoctoral scientists Birgit Boogard and Ramkumar Bendapudi on their experiences with the use of Outcome Mapping and innovation platforms in India and Mozambique. Also check out the workshop photos on Flickr.

Funded by the European Commission - International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), the imGoats project is led by researchers from ILRI in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International in Mozambique. For more information, visit

Friday, June 22, 2012

New blog features research on food safety in informal markets in Africa

Testing milk in Kenya's informal market
Testing milk in Kenya's informal market (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

Interested in food safety in informal markets in sub-Saharan Africa? Then check out the new blog of the Safe Food, Fair Food project, a research initiative that is using risk-based approaches to improve food safety and market access in informal markets for animal-source foods in sub-Saharan Africa. 

This BMZ/GIZ-funded project is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and is collaboratively undertaken with several local, regional and international partners

The first phase of the project (2008-11) built core capacity in risk-based methods through training and practical application in 24 proof-of-concept studies in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The recently launched second phase of the project (2012-15) will consolidate and expand on the achievements of the first phase by addressing selected high-potential value chains, and targeting regional policy and education.

The three main components of the second phase of the project are:

  • Rapid assessment of food safety risks in four selected value chains using the tools validated in the first phase.
  • Action research on priority food safety issues in these value chains to pilot and test best-bet interventions.
  • Engagement with regional economic communities, the private sector and veterinary universities for a more enabling environment.
For more information, please contact the project coordinator Kristina Roesel (k.roesel @

Friday, June 15, 2012

International experts call for improved nutrition and health through agriculture

There is need to better understand the linkages between human, animal and environmental health so that we can better manage and mitigate the risks of diseases that are associated with agriculture.

This call was made by Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), during a seminar on leveraging agriculture to enhance nutrition and health hosted by the CGIAR Fund Office in Washington, DC on 5 June 2012.

Grace heads ILRI's research team on animal health, food safety and zoonoses and doubles up as leader of the agriculture-associated diseases component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health which is led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Jonathan Wadsworth, executive secretary of the CGIAR Fund Council, chaired the seminar which featured presentations by John McDermott, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health; Laurian Unnevehr, IFPRI senior research fellow; and Howarth Bouis, program director of HarvestPlus.

Find out more from this article by the CGIAR Fund Office.

Monday, June 11, 2012

ILRI presents at the 19th World Meat Congress

On 4-6 June 2012, over 300 participants gathered at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, France for the 19th World Meat Congress. The theme of the congress was 'Proudly producing and trading meat'.

Agricultural economist Derek Baker represented the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at the meeting and delivered a presentation titled 'Livestock farming in developing countries: An essential resource'.

Baker is the leader of ILRI's Changing Demand and Market Institutions research team.

Monday, May 28, 2012

New research consortium to provide knowledge for effective One Health approaches to disease control in Africa

Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya
Orma Boran cattle crossing a river in Kenya. The new Dynamic Drivers of Disease Consortium will integrate understanding of zoonoses, ecosystems and wellbeing (photo credit: ILRI/Dolan).
Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa is a new Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)-funded research program that seeks to integrate our understanding of zoonoses, ecosystems and wellbeing.  The 3.5 year program runs until July 2015 and focuses on four emerging or re-emerging zoonotic diseases in four diverse African ecosystems:
  • Henipavirus infection in Ghana
  • Rift Valley fever in Kenya
  • Lassa fever in Sierra Leone
  • Trypanosomiasis in Zambia and Zimbabwe
Its innovative, holistic approach brings together natural and social scientists to build an evidence base designed to inform global and national policy players seeking effective, integrated approaches to control and check disease outbreaks.

The Drivers of Disease Consortium comprises over 30 researchers working in 17 institutes across Africa, Europe and the US and includes researchers in the environmental, biological, social, political, and human and animal health sciences. They will generate new knowledge on:
  • Ecosystem change
  • How ecology and people’s interactions with ecosystems affect disease emergence
  • Disease transmission and exposure
The partner institutes are:
  • ESRC STEPS Centre, Brighton, UK
  • University of Cambridge, UK
  • Institute of Zoology, London
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University College, London
  • Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, University of Ghana
  • International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya
  • Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI)
  • University of Nairobi
  • Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone
  • Njala University, Sierra Leone
  • Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development, Zambia
  • University of Zambia
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, Zimbabwe
  • University of Zimbabwe
  • Stockholm Resilience Centre
  • Tulane University, USA
The programme is funded by a £3.2m grant from the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

Friday, May 18, 2012

New report identifies priority areas for investment to improve livestock data in Africa

Sheep being watered at a waterhole in Niger
Livestock at a watering hole in Niger. A new report identifies priority areas for government investment towards improving the quality of livestock data in Africa (photo credit: ILRI). 

The Livestock Data Innovation in Africa project has published a new report (May 2012)  that  reviews the results of a global online survey that was carried out to identify priority areas for investments to improve the quality of livestock data. 

The survey was carried out between January and February 2012 among 641 livestock stakeholders including researchers, donors, government officials from livestock ministries or departments, and officials from non-governmental organizations and private companies. 

The objectives of the survey were to: 
  • rank the main areas in the livestock value chain where livestock-related data and information are needed;
  • review stakeholders' perceptions of the quality of available livestock data and indicators; and
  • identify priority areas along the livestock value chain where investments are needed to improve the quality and quantity of livestock data and indicators.

The findings of the report, Core livestock data and indicators: results of a stakeholder survey, will provide governments with information on the critical gaps in livestock data. 

In addition, the results will feed into the process of developing a minimum  set of livestock core data that governments should collect, as mandated by the global strategy to improve agriculture and rural statistics.

The Livestock Data Innovation Project is sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and jointly implemented by the World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in collaboration with the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR).

Monday, May 14, 2012

New ILRI research paper presents gendered analysis of dairy goat and sweet potato production in Tanzania

A newly published (May 2012) discussion paper from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) presents findings of a study carried out to analyze gender issues in production of dairy goats and sweet potato in four communities in Mvomero and Kongwa districts of Tanzania.

The study identified gender differences in the perceived potential of integrating production of root crops and dairy goats. There were also distinct gender differences with respect to ownership and management of goats and crops.

Men perceived value addition resulting from owning dairy goats and the attendant increase in income for them whereas women perceived change in status quo and increase workload resulting from stall goat management activities.

Women were found to have limited control over decisions on sale and use of incomes generated from sale of goats. Distinct differences in ownership of crops between men and women were also observed; men owned cash crops whereas women owned subsistence or food crops for home consumption.

“Investment is needed in participatory training and creation of awareness on gender for both women and men, to sensitize them on the importance of including both women and men in development projects,” the authors of the paper conclude.

The study was funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It was collaboratively undertaken by researchers from the Sokoine University of Agriculture, the University of Alberta and ILRI.

To find out more, please visit the project website

Download the discussion paper

Saghir P, Njuki J, Waithanji E, Kariuki J and Sikira A. 2012. Integrating improved goat breeds with new varieties of sweet potatoes and cassava in the agro-pastoral systems of Tanzania: A gendered analysis. ILRI Discussion Paper 21. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feeding dairy cattle: Regional experts develop manual for farmers in East Africa

The East Africa Dairy Development project has produced a manual aimed at helping farmers in the region boost the productivity of their dairy cows through adoption of improved animal feeding practices.

The manual was developed by a team of animal science experts from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and the University of Nairobi.

The topics include the basic nutrient requirements of dairy cows; pasture management; production of forage such as hay and silage; feed supplements; practical aspects of feeding calves, heifers and dairy cows; and how to control forage diseases like Napier grass head smut.

Whereas the information has been synthesized in such a way as to be applicable to the East African region, some information may be site specific, and in some instances information that is generalized may need to be customized to suit specific areas.

The manual builds on an earlier version produced by the Smallholder Dairy Project and the Kenya Dairy Development Program that was designed to guide extension workers and smallholder dairy farmers through the basics of feeding dairy animals.

Although dairy farmers are the primary audience of the manual, it may also be a useful information resource for extension workers as well as students of animal production.

For more information, please contact ILRI feed scientist Ben Lukuyu (b.lukuyu @
Download the manual

Lukuyu B, Gachuiri CK, Lukuyu MN, Lusweti C and Mwendia S (eds). 2012. Feeding dairy cattle in East Africa. East Africa Dairy Development Project, Nairobi, Kenya.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

PhD students and interns gain from ILRI training workshop on research methods

Kristina Roesel presents her PhD proposal during a training workshop on research methods
Kristina Roesel presents her PhD proposal during a training workshop on research methods held at ILRI Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Tezira Lore).

On 17-18 April 2012, the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held a training workshop on research methods for eight PhD students and interns attached to ILRI's Animal Health, Food Safety and Zoonoses team which is led by Delia Grace.

The training was facilitated by staff from ILRI's Research Methods Group, InfoCentre, and Markets, Gender and Livelihoods research theme.

The topics included an introduction to R software for data analysis; systematic literature review; using Mendeley to manage and share research papers; presentation skills; integrating gender analysis in research design; animal care and use; research ethics; how to search for journal articles; and use of web 2.0 tools to communicate research.

The session on gender analysis in research design facilitated by Elizabeth Waithanji of ILRI's Poverty, Gender and Impact team was particularly useful in helping the students to define gender-responsive goals and objectives leading to the development of research hypotheses and data collection tools that incorporate gender.

"Disaggregating data collection by gender will enable the generation of research evidence on how men and women are impacted differently by the interventions," Waithanji said.

James Kahunyo presents his PhD proposal during a training workshop on research methods
James Kahunyo presents his PhD proposal during a training workshop on research methods held at ILRI Nairobi. Delia Grace (standing left) facilitates the discussion  (photo credit: ILRI/Tezira Lore). 

The students also presented their PhD proposals to each other and benefited from group discussions on how to fine-tune their project objectives and scope of activities.

Delia Grace, who is also the coordinator of the agriculture-associated diseases component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, gave the students tips on how to improve their presentation skills to enable them effectively communicate their research not only to their peers but also to international and non-specialist audiences.

"I found the training to be a very useful opportunity for me to practise my presentation skills and I hope to get better with time," said Isaiah Akuku, a research intern attached to ILRI under a capacity strengthening program of the Consortium for National Health Research (CNHR).

"During my internship, I hope to gain knowledge, skills and experience in research for health so that I can contribute to tackling emerging infectious diseases," he added.

The students' research projects fall under the areas of emerging infectious diseases and zoonoses (Rift Valley fever and mapping of zoonoses hotspots) and food safety (mycotoxins, and public health risks associated with dairy and pig value chains).

The students are from Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Nairobi and Wageningen University.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Second phase of the ILRI-led Safe Food, Fair Food project gets underway

On 12–13 April 2012, the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) hosted an inception meeting for the BMZ/GIZ-funded, ILRI-led Safe Food, Fair Food project to develop action plans for the second 3-year phase of the project to build on previous work from 2008-11.

Present at the inception meeting were project partners from Côte d’Ivoire (Centre Suisse de Recherches Scientifiques), Ethiopia (Addis Ababa University), Germany (Federal Institute for Risk Assessment [BfR] and Freie Universität Berlin), Ghana (University of Ghana), Japan (Rakuno Gakuen University), Kenya (University of Nairobi), Mozambique (Direcção de Ciências Animais), Tanzania (Sokoine University of Agriculture) and Uganda (Makerere University).

During the first phase of the project, a number of studies on participatory risk analysis were carried out in eastern, southern and West Africa. The project also held national workshops to engage policymakers to raise awareness about the potential food safety hazards that exist along the entire value chain.

Findings from the project also featured prominently at the first International Congress on Pathogens at the Human-Animal Interface (ICOPHAI) held in September 2011 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where some 25 oral and poster presentations were made by researchers and MSc and PhD students attached to the project.

Also in September 2011, the project held its final synthesis workshop to deliberate on the results of national impact assessment studies and develop a project synthesis book which will facilitate dissemination of the research findings to wider audiences.

The project now moves into its second phase which will adopt an action research approach for stakeholder engagement at the regional level towards uptake of tools and approaches to enhance food safety in informal markets in Africa.

For more information, visit the project web page or view the project publications.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Linking smallholder women farmers to markets: Which approaches work best?

The first-ever global conference on women in agriculture was held on 13-15 March 2012 in New Delhi, India. The conference gathered women farmers, researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders from all over the world to discuss current and emerging gender-related issues in agriculture and research, as well as derive lessons for future sustainable, gender-sensitive development.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was represented at the conference by Jemimah Njuki, leader of ILRI's Poverty, Gender and Impact team.

Njuki's presentation, Linking women farmers to markets: Patterns of market participation, decision making and intra-household income management, explored various approaches to linking smallholder women to markets as a critical pathway towards their economic empowerment.

View the presentation below.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Informal channels are key sources of livestock information for Kenya’s rural farmers

Maasai father and son tend to their cattle in Kenya
Maasai father and son tend to their cattle in Kenya. Informal channels are important sources of livestock information but there are gender disparities in access to information among male-headed rural households in Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Informal channels such as farmer to farmer interactions are more important sources of information on livestock production and marketing for rural farmers in Kenya than co-operative groups, government extension services and radio, a new study has found.

However, this farmer to farmer exchange is more popular among women farmers than among their male counterparts.

The study, published in the February 2012 edition of Livestock Research for Rural Development, assessed how women’s access to livestock information and financial services compares to that of men among male-headed rural households in four districts in Kenya: Kajiado, Kiambu, Meru and Tharaka.

The study also revealed gender disparities with respect to training of farmers in livestock production and marketing.

Men in male-headed households received more training on a greater variety of technical topics such as livestock breeding, health and marketing, whereas women mostly received training on general aspects of livestock management.

Trainings were mostly held within the village but outside the home.

“Increasing access to training by women will require holding training in venues that do not constrain women,” the authors suggest.

Gendered disparities were also observed in access to financial services.

Although both men and women relied on groups as their main source of credit, more men than women obtained credit from formal financial service providers such as banks, microfinance institutions and co-operative societies.

On the other hand, more women than men obtained credit from neighbours and friends.

For this reason, the authors recommend that “provision of credit facilities should be flexible and have consideration for women’s constrained access to collateral”.

Access the article

Mburu S, Njuki J and Kariuki J. 2012. Intra-household access to livestock information and financial services in Kenya. Livestock Research for Rural Development. Volume 24, Article #38.