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

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.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gender strategy of the East Africa Dairy Development project boosts women's participation in dairy organizations

Milk sale in Nairobi's informal market
Milk sale in Nairobi's informal market (photo credit: ILRI/Brad Collis).

The March 2013 issue of the New Agriculturist online newsletter highlights some of the approaches used by the East Africa Dairy Development (EADD) project to transform attitudes to gender so as to achieve increased participation of women in livestock development activities.

The EADD project aims at doubling household income from dairy products among 179,000 livestock-keeping households in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

The project has adopted a dairy hub approach to enable farmers' have easy access to key farm inputs and animal health services as well as bulking and chilling facilities for their milk.

A baseline survey carried out in 2008 found that only 14% of dairy organization members were women. Because gender equity was a key pillar of the project, a pragmatic gender strategy was developed to incorporate gender issues into the project towards increasing women's participation.

Various gender transformative approaches were used. These included training of project staff at country and regional level, incorporation of key gender indicators in project planning and budgets for monitoring and evaluation, and training of farmer groups, particularly women, on the importance of being a member of a dairy organization.

These efforts have borne fruit, with a noted increase in women's membership in dairy organizations from 14% at the start of the project to 29% in June 2012.

The EADD project is now entering its second phase, which will see the project activities expand into Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Read the complete article: Tackling gender blindness in East African dairy development

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New online resource links value chain researchers and practitioners for improved knowledge sharing

Market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi
Selling agricultural produce at Chimbiya Market, near Dedza in central Malawi. The new AgriFood Chain Toolkit links value chain researchers and practitioners for better sharing of information and knowledge on value chain development (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

The CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets has launched a new online resource that links agricultural value chain researchers and field practitioners so that the methods and approaches used for analyzing value chains in developing countries may be better targeted and adapted to suit specific conditions in the field.

The new AgriFood Chain Toolkit is an online resource that brings together the researchers who develop tools and methods for value chain analysis and the people who use the tools in the field.

The toolkit also supports a community of practice, bringing together various stakeholders to review, assess and improve value chain approaches so as to come up with better-suited tools for value chain analysis and development.

“There are too few links existing between value chain researchers and value chain practitioners. The AgriFood chain toolkit is designed to help researchers and practitioners overcome this challenge,” said Jo Cadilhon, an agricultural economist at the International Livestock Research Institute who was involved in developing the toolkit.

The AgriFood Chain Toolkit is based on two main online knowledge-sharing tools:

  • An electronic document repository: This contains links to documents and websites on quantitative methods of value chain analysis, capacity building of value chain stakeholders and several case studies of agricultural supply chains in developing countries. Most of the publications are open access documents.
  • The AgriFood Chain Toolkit Dgroup: This online discussion group is the platform to go to in order to ask for help when looking for a specific value chain tool to suit a specific field context or to provide feedback on the documents and websites found in the document repository.

Find out more by browsing the document repository or sign up to join the AgriFood Chain Toolkit Dgroup.