‘Solutions for a Transforming Livestock Sector’: Feedback on a ‘storyline’ for the new ILRI strategy

Between April and August 2012, as part of the institute’s ongoing strategy development process, we asked ILRI staff and external stakeholders to give us comments and feedback on our ‘storyline.’

The storyline argued that today’s challenges of growing food demand, continued rural poverty, climate change, and scarcity of land, energy and water call for changes in livestock production systems – to be both highly productive and highly sustainable.  It calls for changes in ILRI’s research focus. As a way to help us set priorities, the storyline set out three main livestock system ‘typologies’:  ‘inclusive growth systems’, ‘low growth systems’ and a’ growth with externalities system.’

In mid August, we summarized the feedback received and implications for our work [download the longer document here].

This is a much-shortened structured synthesis of all the comments and feedback we received. It tries to capture the main messages and feedback that we will use to help shape our new strategy.

Those comments received are already feeding into our strategy thinking and many of the ‘how’ issues raised will also contribute to the development of our research strategy.

We would like to express our great appreciation to the MANY people who gave us their time and feedback.

Alongside this consultation on an overall ‘storyline’ and several ‘tough issues’, we are identifying the key external drivers likely to shape livestock development in the next decade. We plan to enrich these virtual conversations with some face to face consultations with partners and stakeholder in some countries where ILRI has a physical presence.

We welcome any further comments or suggestions as comments you may have!

What were some of the key insights emerging?

None of the people commenting actually disagreed with the basic analysis that we need to expand our scope, focus and targets. We did however receive many suggestions indicating in which types of areas we need to give more or different attention.

  • With much more food  needed to feed 3 billion MORE people, we need to focus on production and productivity for food, while recognizing that delivering this food will put unparalleled stress on our ecosystems and out environment.
  • ILRI’s focus should go beyond bringing people out of poverty to ensuring a safer and healthier world for the future. We should also broaden the scope of the research beyond productivity and technical aspects: We should speak ‘green’, we should speak ‘climate smart agriculture’.
  • We need a focus on increasing livestock production and productivity (which was somewhat secondary in our previous strategy).
  • We should aim to reduce the environmental impact and avoid the energy use inefficiency that comes with intensive production of animals. We should look for ways to optimize the long term benefits of livestock to human health and wellbeing within a broader ecological or socioeconomic context.
  • We need to focus on marketing and land use issues, not production or valuation problems.
  • We can adopt a more inclusive focus that transforms the whole system. This can be in relation to market/value chain systems, but also in relation to ecosystem services.
  • We also need to better link the livestock sector to other agricultural sectors, considering interactions/competition between smallholder livestock systems and other land use(r)s.  We need to integrate livestock systems into wider systems to create more synergies between cropping, livestock and energy.
  • We also need to link our research to field problems and work on the solutions that can guide development partners. We need to talk more about solutions than about research findings.

Several people argued that this new strategy needs to more explicitly and clearly draw on and present the lessons from our previous strategy? Has ‘livestock’ indeed created a pathway out of poverty, to what extent, and which approaches have been most successful? Which approaches have not worked?

Others pointed out that we need to more systematically spell out the wider changes and drivers influencing ILRI and the livestock sector. These include the transformation of the CGIAR, recent statements from the G8 and G20 and the commentary around Rio+ 20.

There was not much discussion on ‘who’ we should target – it wa suggested that targeting ‘the poor for the poor’ may be ok for more subsistence oriented farmers, we should also target entrepreneurial smallholders who produce for the market (poor and middle class).  We need to put women and equity more generally at the forefront of the livestock development agenda.

On the livestock system typologies, we received many general comments, some on the content, others on the terminology used, and some on other ways to characterize the systems.

  • As examples, it was suggested that the three approaches be presented as opportunities, they need to be clear on people and geography, they need to be much on the measure of ’growth’ they are based on, they  need to be more people (and women) –centric, and they should include a summary of ‘how’ each approach would be implemented.
  • Others focused on the terminology we used:  Perhaps we might focus on ‘inclusive growth’, ‘green growth’ and ‘healthy growth’ of developing-world livestock systems.  Perhaps replace references to ‘low-growth livestock systems’ with ‘slower growth’ livestock systems.’ Maybe we just need two ‘pathways’ on ‘supporting sustainable inclusive growth’ and ‘protecting ecosystem services for long-term resilience.’ More simply, just go for one ‘Good, green, growth.’

Most interventions were directed to the so-called ‘low growth’ systems typology, suggesting that these warrant greater attention that we first thought.

  • The title ‘low growth systems’ was thought by one person to be “clearly a loser.” Others ‘voted’ for ‘low growth systems’ – as this is closest to ILRI’s mandate and is possibly of most benefit. One respondent argued that the middle point – the low growth group, should not be forgotten, as it is there where the greatest challenges but also the greatest pro-poor/pro vulnerable benefits lie for an institution like ILRI. It was suggested that ‘low growth’ may prove crucial with regard to the delivery of ecosystem services – which is a more positive way of presenting this second scenario.
  • This ‘low growth’ system also attracted most comments on the importance of pastoral people and rangelands. Thus: it was argued that when you look at the extent of rangelands in Asia and Africa (significantly more than half the land mass), to neglect rangelands production is to neglect one of the principle reasons the livestock sector is so important.
  • Furthermore, it was argued that our story line completely neglects a major component of the livestock sector that offers tremendous opportunity for growth, namely pastoralism.  The livestock sector will benefit most from a) research into technologies and management practices that improve the prospects for successful pastoralists, b) research into the social dimensions of poverty that will address inequity and underlying weaknesses in human rights and property rights, and c) research into ways out of pastoralism. This needs strong applied and inter-disciplinary research. Considering the focus on sustainability, pastoralism also deserves particular attention on its contribution to environmental protection and ecosystem services. More research is needed into the environmental benefits around carbon sequestration and water cycling, and the conditions under which these services are provided or not provided.
  • On the ‘growth with externalities’ system typology, it was suggested that we could give more emphasis to the positive aspects of intensifying systems, and hence the need for research on the potential negative impacts. This should not limit itself to environment; it should call on the value chain approach.
  • On the ‘inclusive growth’ system typology, perhaps we expand should the concept with an explicit sustainability dimension. so we could aim at growth that: 1) Aims at broad-based improvement of well-being, 2) operates within environmental limits, 3) is capable of coping with or adapting to global change.

Two other major areas of feedback were provided.  The first was mainly concerned with the ‘how’ – what pathways should ILRI use to ensure its work would have intended impact? The second, called on ILRI to pay proper and innovative attention to communication and dissemination – to get its (and others …) knowledge off the shelves.

  • One respondent pointed to the importance of capacities to manage, maintain, market and feed livestock – How do we realize the critical numbers of trained and empowered people? Others, inside ILRI especially, were concerned that we want to do too much – emphasizing that we need to work with others to reach our objectives. We should beware however that having too many partners can cause confusion; too much time can be spent navigating through the interests of partners instead of solving farmer problems and helping them to seize opportunities.
  • The storyline does not indicate what types of research ILRI should be engaged in. We can contribute through action research, testing innovations. Such research can also be complemented by impact research based on action – gender, climate, nutrition, health etc.
  • The storyline misses important elements such as the role of gender, equity, and the role of partnerships, but also R4D and action-research (where participation, facilitation and capacity building become important components).  We also need to ensure the genuine involvement and participation of farmers in our work.
  • The Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D) approach was mentioned several times as a ‘complete approach’ which looks at productivity, markets, policy, NRM, product development, nutrition and gender.
  • In terms of knowledge and communication, the importance of indigenous knowledge was highlighted; we were encouraged to embrace multi-media approaches to communication and information dissemination (radio, video, mobiles, extension, ICTs , meetings, theatre, etc); and we need especially to  avoid our researchers working in isolation from the users of technologies.   We need a plan for knowledge dissemination/ sharing, for technology adoption and adaptation.

One thought on “‘Solutions for a Transforming Livestock Sector’: Feedback on a ‘storyline’ for the new ILRI strategy

  1. The three key areas, are to my mind very important. The most important is a clear focus on PRODUCTIVITY, not with production, but instead of … productivity implies an economic reality as it is a ratio between cost and benefits. Food safety is another important aspect, often neglected but closely linked to the productivity in a family based livestock system.

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