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

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Call for contributions: Seminar on African dairy value chains

A woman milks one of her goats in Ségou District, Mali
A woman milks one of her goats in Ségou District, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné). 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and CTA are calling for contributions for a seminar on African dairy value chains to be held in Nairobi, Kenya on 21–24 September 2014.

The objective of the seminar, organized in the context of the AgriFood chain toolkit of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets and the CTA value chain program, is to enable dairy value chain practitioners (farmers’ representatives, private sector firms, non-governmental organizations, development agencies and government officials) and researchers to share lessons on conducive policies and capacity development and analytical tools for the analysis of dairy value chain development.

The organizers are particularly interested in policy-relevant experiences and tools that facilitate a gender-equitable participation of actors in the dairy value chain.

Access more details on the call for contributions

Peer-review and acceptance of relevant contributions will be done on a first-relevant-come, first-served basis. Don't wait until the last minute!

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Sunday, March 09, 2014

Parallel insights from the Himalayas and the Tanzanian coast, on agricultural-research-for-development field work

Jo Cadilhon, senior agro-economist with the Policy, Trade and Value Chains program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), recently travelled to India and Tanzania to visit two ILRI graduate fellows he is supervising. In this blog post, he gives us an insight into their experiences and the different challenges they faced while carrying out their field surveys.

I have travelled recently to visit two new ILRI Graduate fellows I am supervising. They have spent two months in the field with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)-funded MilkIT project, which is enhancing dairy-based livelihoods in India and Tanzania through feed innovation and value chain development approaches. This research is linked to the CGIAR Research Programs on Livestock and Fish and Humidtropics. Our aim is to gather data that will help us validate a model useful for the impact assessment of innovation platforms. Despite the two very different field settings they were immersed in, both graduate fellows have been able to share relevant lessons with each other and the project hosting them.

Pham Ngoc Diep is a Vietnamese MSc candidate in Agricultural and Food Economics at the University of Bonn in Germany. Diep is passionate about working for farmers. She already had agricultural development experience in Vietnam and Thailand before joining ILRI but her motivation to take an MSc course and this fellowship was to learn about research methods and tools that she could use in relevant ways for her agricultural development work. She has been diligently going through the traditional steps of a research protocol: two months of literature review and developing questionnaires, two months of field surveys in Tanga Region of Tanzania and she is now inputting her data before analysis and interpretation to write up scientific publications.

Coming from an urban background, Diep liked having had to stay for an extended period with farming communities to collect her data. This experience will help her work better with farmers in future because she has witnessed and appreciated their daily schedule, how they communicated, how they saw, understood and interpreted things. Diep hopes to use this new skill in future when working with farmers in other countries. Diep was particularly challenged by the need to work with interpreters because she could not speak the local language. Having used local extension officers as interpreters, Diep had to think all the time about the possible bias they were introducing into the questions and answers exchanged with the dairy producers with whom they also interacted as part of their regular professional activities. Although the breezy seaside guesthouse she stayed in in the coastal city of Tanga was very pleasant, Diep suffered from the arid heat when working in districts further inland.

The other student working in parallel did not have problems of language or overheating. Shanker Subedi is currently studying agricultural economics at the University of Hohenheim in Germany. He is Nepalese with some previous rural development experience in his country and some knowledge of Hindi. So Shanker felt completely at home during his field work interviewing smallholder dairy producers in Himalayan villages of Uttarakhand State in Northern India. He got along very well with the villagers in whose home he would stay and whose food he would share, for a small fee.

For Shanker, this experience in the field was an opportunity to put agricultural research for development into practice. He felt his social status had been raised while there by the fact that he could share relevant prior agricultural development experience he had from Nepal with the project partners: the viewpoint of an experienced youth was valuable. However, Shanker was more affected by the remote location of his fieldwork setting. The 3G key he had bought – and which was supposed to work where he went, according to the telecoms shop seller – turned out not to pick up any signal so his computer did not have internet access when staying in the villages; he had to rely on his smartphone to stay connected.

Shanker reported suffering from the bitter cold during the Himalayan winter while in the field: he could not work in the evenings because his hands would go numb from typing in the freezing air. The cold nights also made it difficult for him to sleep restfully at night. And then his laptop broke down and he had to travel for two days to the nearest city to get it fixed and lost some of his files in the process.

Both Diep and Shanker are now back in sunny and cool Nairobi. They are now working hard on their data analysis and write-up for their MSc thesis or fellowship report, which are due beginning of April.

Originally posted on Jo Cadilhon's YPARD blog

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Agrifood chain toolkit conference fosters interactions between value chain researchers and practitioners

In this blog post, ILRI agro-economist Jo Cadilhon reflects on a recent conference in Kampala, Uganda that brought together agricultural and livestock value chain researchers and practitioners. The participatory approach of the conference fostered exchange of information and helped the participants learn from each other's experiences. 

Day 1: Plenary storytelling
Plenary storytelling at the agrifood chain toolkit conference on livestock and fish value chains in East Africa held at Kampala, Uganda on 9-11 September 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Megapix). 

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) organized the first Agrifood Chain Toolkit Conference in Kampala from 9 to 11 September 2013. The objective of the meeting was to gather researchers of value chains and practitioners developing value chains in the field so as to foster feedback from the practitioners on the analysis tools developed by researchers.

The meeting also meant to raise the awareness of practitioners on analytical tools available that could help solve their problems of value chain field development.

This whole initiative was undertaken to contribute to the Value Chain Clearinghouse activity of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets. This first conference was focused on livestock and fish chains so as to tap on ILRI’s expertise and partners within the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

As one of the organizers of the event, I would like to reflect on it with the viewpoint of a value chain researcher. I also reflected on the lessons I learned from the conference with a livestock and fish value chain developer’s viewpoint. Short videos are also available showcasing the reflections of the conference participants and of the organizers.

The concept of an Agrifood Chain Toolkit Conference is built around 'No PowerPoint'. This is meant to foster interaction between participants. This can seem a bit off-putting for researchers who are used to presenting their work under this widespread format.

However, as the editor of the conference coordinating the review of contributions submitted, I was very clear that contributors had to find an alternative way of presenting their work. Many researchers opted for posters instead.

Our ILRI facilitator Ewen Le Borgne made a wonderful job of getting everybody involved into discussions through a series of various activities. After the usual icebreaker to let all 58 participants have an idea of who else was in the room, we heard two stories in plenary.

The first was told by a value chain practitioner on the problems he had faced developing dairy value chains in Zimbabwe. The second was beamed live from Nairobi with my colleague Hikuepi (Epi) Katjiuongua telling us about the development and adaptation of the Livestock and Fish Value Chain Toolkit.

We then gave the opportunity to value chain researchers in the room to present their tools and methods for value chain analysis to the rest of the participants through a mini-sharefair.

All presenters had a corner in the room where they could present and discuss their work with other participants who would roam through the room according to their interest. This part of the meeting did not work quite well.

Perhaps because the main interest of the participants at that time of the day was to enjoy morning tea and snacks. Those were served outside the conference room despite our specification to the venue staff to serve those within the room. Understandably, some of the researchers felt a bit frustrated to see their work was attracting less interest than tea and snacks.

The rest of the first day was used to learn from the experiences of value chain practitioners: their stories allowed the researchers to get a better grasp of the problems they were facing to develop value chains in the field.

On the second day, all participants divided into five small groups to go visit five different value chains: two pig value chains, two dairy value chains and one farmed fish value chain.

This allowed value chain researchers to get an even closer understanding of the problems faced by value chain practitioners. It was also an opportunity to undertake quick-field testing of some of the questionnaire tools ILRI had developed in its Livestock and Fish Value Chain Toolkit.

On the third and final day of the conference, the researchers were now better aware of all the different problems faced by value chain practitioners who were also participating in the conference.

So Ewen and I gave the researchers another chance to market their value chain analysis tools and methods knowing the types of issues that had been discussed on the first day and the real-life problems encountered during the field visits.

A second iteration of the mini-sharefair on value chain tools and methods followed. This one was a greater success because the researchers had been able to customize their marketing pitch to attract visitors to their display using the language and keywords that they had heard being used by the value chain practitioners, and by mentioning that their methods and tools could actually contribute to solving some of the real-life problems they had heard and seen during the past two days.

The interactions between researchers and practitioners were then very lively with several practitioners coming one after the other to see researchers who had tools that could help solve their problems.

There were many expressions of interest to use some of these tools in new contexts through research-for-development projects still to be constructed. Most fulfilling, I heard many value chain practitioners saying they could use some of the tools themselves if those were made available to them and would report back on how they were used and the difficulties faced to adapt them to their own context.

This strong interaction and feedback process between value chain researchers and value chain practitioners was exactly what the Agrifood Chain Toolkit Conference was meant to foster. More such conferences will follow focusing on other commodities in other regions.

To stay informed about future events, register to the Agrifood chain toolkit online discussion group.

Jo Cadilhon, Senior Agro-economist, Policy, Trade and Value Chains Program, ILRI

Friday, October 04, 2013

ILRI to host international conference on mainstreaming livestock value chains

Livestock market in Mali
Animals for sale at Niamana Livestock Market, Bamako, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

An international conference on Mainstreaming Livestock Value Chains: Bridging the Research Gap between Household Analysis and Policy Modelling will take place in Accra, Ghana on 5-6 November 2013.

The conference will directly address existing gaps in the design and application of analytical tools for livestock policy and impact analysis. Participants will include research organizations and development actors with an interest in the empirical specification of agricultural policy, particularly related to livestock.

Presenters will include leading agricultural policy modellers and analysts working on the impact of socio-economic drivers and the impact on improved livestock technologies on people, communities, and the environment.

The goals of the conference are:
  • To establish strong and functional linkages between livestock value chain and impact analysis on the one hand, and sectoral, general equilibrium, and other economic modelling on the other.
  • To identify and advocate pro-poor livestock policy as it emerges from existing analysis.
The finalized papers will be edited and compiled for a special issue of a leading journal.

The conference is organized by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) under the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

For further information, please contact Dolapo Enahoro (d.enahoro @

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Smallholder livestock farmers in Tanzania can benefit from growing consumer demand for beef and poultry products

Major business opportunities exist for smallholder livestock producers in Tanzania, driven by growing demand for high quality beef and poultry products and a large number of rural livestock-keeping households, a recent research study shows.

The research findings were presented at the 19th International Farm Management Congress held in Warsaw, Poland in July 2013. The study assessed urban and rural consumers’ preferred retail outlets and retail forms (different cuts of beef and poultry) as well as their preferences for product quality and safety attributes. Retail outlets and form preferences differed markedly across consumer income classes, but quality and safety attributes were valued by all income classes.

View the presentation below

Baker D, Pica-Ciamarra U, Longin N and Mtimet N. 2013. The market for animal-sourced foods in Tanzania: Business opportunities for small-scale livestock producers? Presentation at the 19th International Farm Management Congress, Warsaw, Poland, 21-26 July 2013.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

ILRI publishes report on rapid appraisal of Ethiopia's live cattle and beef value chain

Cattle market in Mi'eso area
Cattle market in Mi'eso, Oromia Region, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Despite the prominence of cattle in Ethiopian society and its economy, relevant qualitative and quantitative information is both scarce and subject to a variety of interpretations.

Mobilizing cattle, and their supporting natural and human resource base, in a sustainable manner for development purposes is therefore a challenge that begins with identification of problems and opportunities about which there is limited agreement.

It is in this context that the Government of Ethiopia requested a diagnostic study, through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is supporting the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to undertake a work program requested by the government, to provide strategic input and technical assistance in several key areas of the country’s agricultural sector.

Using an extensive review of secondary materials, learning from a series of stakeholders’ consultations, and participatory rapid assessments of market actors, the study analyzed live cattle and beef marketing.

The key findings have been published by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in a discussion paper.

The rapid appraisal focused on two of Ethiopia’s major cattle trading routes, representing each of the agropastoral highland production systems and pastoral lowland production, and the respective routes taken by animals to market.

The main objective was to diagnose problems based on quantitative measures, and identify associated policy strategies. The study team included local specialists, international management consultants, as well as researchers from CGIAR.

The team not only interacted with the policymakers on emerging results but also triangulated the results with other experts in the country in the forms of both stakeholders’ consultations and one-to-one interviews.

Download the discussion paper

GebreMariam S, Amare S, Baker D, Solomon A and Davies R. 2013. Study of the Ethiopian live cattle and beef value chain. ILRI Discussion Paper 23. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Study on the East Africa Dairy Development project provides insights into agricultural innovation processes

Milk Reception at Nyala Dairy in Kenya
Milk reception at Nyala dairy plant in Kenya (photo credit: East Africa Dairy Development project)

A new study on agricultural innovation systems takes an in-depth look at the East Africa Dairy Development project and its innovative approach to enhancing dairy farmers' access to inputs, credit and animal health services.

The study, published in the June 2013 issue of the journal Agricultural Systems, was lead authored by Catherine Kilelu, a PhD student at Wageningen University who was hosted at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) as a graduate fellow.

Started in January 2008, the East Africa Dairy Development project is working in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda to transform the lives of 179,000 families (about 1 million people) by doubling household dairy income in 10 years through integrated interventions in dairy production, market access and knowledge application.

The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by Heifer International, African Breeders Services - Total Cattle Management, TechnoServe, the World Agroforestry Centre and ILRI.

Kabiyet Financial Services Association
Kabiyet Financial Services Association, a farmer-owned village bank, was set up through the East Africa Dairy Development project as an innovative way to enhance dairy farmers' access to financing (photo credit: East Africa Dairy Development Project).

The project helped set up dairy farmer business associations with milk chilling plants. These serve as local business hubs where farmers can easily access credit, farm inputs, artificial insemination services, animal feeds as well as training on dairy production.

Following are the key highlights of the study:
  • Innovation platforms support co-evolution of innovation.
  • Innovation platforms can be considered sets of intermediaries.
  • Dynamism and unpredictability of innovation requires platforms to be adaptive.
  • Feedback and learning in platforms needs to be better monitored.
  • Agricultural innovation policies should be better tailored to co-evolution.
Access the abstract here (subscription required for full-text)

Kilelu CW, Klerkx L and Leeuwis C. 2013. Unravelling the role of innovation platforms in supporting co-evolution of innovation: Contributions and tensions in a smallholder dairy development programme. Agricultural Systems 118: 65-77.