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ILRI turns 40: Nairobi headquarters marks the anniversary


Some of the ILRI alumni who joined ILRI’s 1 Oct 2014 event marking the institute’s 40th anniversary: Top row (left to right): Anne Muhato, Onesmo ole-MoiYoi, Segenet Kelemu, Rok Skilton, Beatrice Ouma, Bruce Scott. Middle row: Liz Ogutu, Grace Ndungu, Janice Njoroge, Chris Hinson, Jean Ndikumana. Bottom row: Ralph von Kaufmann, Eric Ouma, Kentice Tikolo, Doris Mwanzia, Jemimah Njuki, Jan Grootenhuis.

The following highlights of the 40-year anniversary event of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) held at the institute’s headquarters in the Kabete suburb of Nairobi, Kenya, last week (1 Oct 2014) were compiled with the help of ILRI colleagues Ewen Le Borgne, Tezira Lore, Ephraim Mukisira and Shirley Tarawali; in addition to the formidable moderator of the day, former ILRI director of biotechnology Ed Rege; ILRI photographers of the day Paul Karaimu and Samuel Mungai; and of course the many tweeters of the day’s sessions, especially ILRI’s Diana Brandes (@DianaBrandes), Tezira Lore (@Tezira) and Jane Gitau (@shikos) in addition of course to ILRI (@ILRI), and with special thanks for tweeted pictures as well as remarks from Séona Jane Lee, a PhD student with a five-year project on ‘Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation’ based at the University of Edinburgh (@INZI_Edinburgh) who joined us for the day.

The Nairobi 1 Oct 2014 event was the second in a series of events ILRI is holding with partners to mark its 40th anniversary and to help position it for the future. The first event was an ILRI-hosted side session at Tropentag 2014, an annual European conference on food security, natural resource management and rural development that was held in Prague in September this year. The next event in ILRI’s anniversary series will be on 13 Oct in Hanoi at a regional workshop for European-Southeast Asian experts on One Health in Action. Following that, ILRI will hold a special session on 15 Oct at a meeting of livestock science leaders and investors at the Borlaug Dialogue, which takes place 15–17 Oct in Des Moines, Iowa, during the World Food Week, and during which the World Food Prize is bestowed.

Follow the hashtag #ILRI40 to stay abreast of all ILRI’s anniversary events.

Inaugural address
Felix Koskei

Honourable Felix Koskei

Fred Kiptoon Segor

Professor Fred Segor 

To open the morning’s proceedings, Professor Fred Segor, principal secretary in the Kenya Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, gave the inaugural address on behalf of the Honourable Felix Koskei, cabinet secretary for the agriculture ministry, who was unable to join the morning session due to a conflicting engagement but came to ILRI’s reception later the same day. Excerpts of the address follow.

‘It is my pleasure to join you on this auspicious occasion to recognise the 40th anniversary of the existence of the International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI, and its two predecessors, ILCA and ILRAD. On behalf of the Government of Kenya, may I take this opportunity to warmly congratulate ILRI’s board, management and staff and to welcome you all to this important event.

‘As you well know, especially since the food price crisis of 2007/2008, there has been a renewed interest in the agricultural sector by many governments in sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya included. . . . More than ever before, there is a compelling need for African countries to continue the progress made towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and to position themselves to address the emerging Sustainable Development Goals, including . . . sustainable agriculture. . . .

‘Worldwide, livestock contribute about 26% of the global protein and 13% of the total calories. Growth in demand for animal products is projected to increase significantly, particularly in countries that are currently classified as low and middle income or as emerging economies. For example, milk consumption in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly East Africa, is predicted to triple in the next few decades. Along with such impressive figures comes the opportunity for the livestock sector to contribute to development challenges.

‘Kenya exemplifies many such issues. Agriculture is the mainstay of Kenya’s economy. This fact has been emphasized in Kenya’s Vision 2030 Development blueprint; the Second Medium-Term Plan (2013–2017); and the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (2010–2020). Besides pursuing these strategies, the government continues to advance the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) agenda. A key role of my ministry is to ensure that these plans are fully implemented. This . . . can only be realized by working together with development partners, and . . .  research for development institutions, such as ILRI and the CGIAR Consortium, as well as by developing capacity through engagement with academia.

In terms of production value, 3 of the top 10 agricultural commodities in Kenya are livestock, with milk and beef being amongst the top three. The key livestock species in Kenya are dairy cattle, beef, sheep and goats, camels, poultry and pigs. . . . Livestock provide employment to about 10 million [Kenyans], and contributes as much as 40 per cent to the agricultural GDP, with well over half that contribution from the dairy sector. And 50 per cent of the agricultural labour force is employed in the livestock sector. . . .

‘As ILRI turns 40 it is befitting for me to highlight some historical aspects of the Government of Kenya relationship with the institute, starting with its predecessor the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases, ILRAD. ILRAD was created in 1973, paving the way to the commencement of what has become a long and effective partnership between Kenya and the CGIAR. Indeed, currently Kenya hosts several of the 15 centres that are members of the CGIAR Consortium, and Nairobi is the only location worldwide where two such centres, ILRI and the World Agroforestry Centre, have their headquarters.

‘In 1994, there was another milestone, when the instrument creating ILRI as an international organization that brought together ILRAD and ILCA (the International Livestock Centre for Africa) was signed in Berne, Switzerland, on 21 September 1994 and the centre started operations 1 January 1995. Thus, this year marks 40 years (20+20) since the creation of ILRAD (1973) and ILCA (1974), its forerunners. Today’s event marks 40 years of collective livestock research and development work by ILRI and its two predecessors together with innumerable partners.

Kenya has and continues to benefit from the research being conducted by ILRI and other international research centres implementing activities in collaboration with the now Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization, KALRO, and its predecessors, local universities, other public agencies, the private sector, and not least, farmers themselves. Through such partnerships, ILRI has provided critical evidence to inform policymaking and contributed to the development of new tools and products that are making significant contributions to improving livestock production and productivity. . . .

The following are a few concrete examples to illustrate what we as a nation consider to be some of the most important contributions of ILRI over these years.

  • Support for developing a ‘live vaccine’ against East Coast fever
    Over one million cattle have been vaccinated against this cattle-killing disease since the vaccine’s official launch in Kenya in 2012.
  • Support for developing greater capacity in agricultural biosciences
    ILRI and its predecessors have trained many hundreds of Kenyans . . . , particularly today via the BeCA-ILRI Hub that was established as part of the African Union/ New Partnership for Africa’s Development (AU/NEPAD) African Biosciences Initiative (ABI) within the CAADP framework. Scientists from research institutions and universities across Africa come to . . .  undertake critical parts of their research with new scientific tools. . . . Since 2010, this facility has [trained] over 500 individuals.
  • Support for smallholder dairy production
    Between 1997 and 2005, . . . the Smallholder Dairy Project (SDP), a joint initiative of ILRI with the then Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries Development . . . generated critical evidence leading to policy and legislative change . . .  in Kenya [whose] pro-poor dairy policies are today generating benefits valued at USD33 million a year, half of which directly benefit poor producers, many of whom are women.
  • Support for better livestock nutrition
    Lack of year-round livestock feeds and improved livestock breeds continues to constrain livestock productivity by smallholders. . . . Disease-resistant varieties of Napier grass obtained from ILRI’s forage genebank (which has over 19,000 accessions held in trust in a facility in Ethiopia), improvements made to local forage genotypes and improved varieties of dual-purpose (feed plus food) crops offer new options to Kenya’s livestock keepers.
  • Support for conserving and better using Kenya’s native livestock
    With private and public partners, ILRI conducts a global livestock genetics program to deliver improved genetics to small-scale livestock keepers. This includes a livestock genomics platform for characterizing mostly indigenous livestock (cattle, sheep and goats) and related wildlife diversity in Kenya and other developing countries. This research, in which scientists have identified the genes in Kenya’s Red Maasai sheep controlling resistance to worm infection, heralds a new era in animal genetics.
  • Support for insuring pastoralists against livestock losses
    With the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and private-sector players, ILRI is helping Kenya’s pastoral livestock keepers to protect themselves against losses of livestock in drought periods through an ‘index-based’ livestock insurance scheme. More than 4,000 livestock herders in Kenya have purchased this novel insurance since it was launched in 2010. The scheme has contributed to an estimated 50% drop in ‘distress’ sales of livestock to raise cash in times of drought, a 33% reduced likelihood of having to eat significantly smaller meals, and a 33% reduction in dependence on food aid.

‘. . . On behalf of the Government of Kenya, I convey our gratitude to the International Livestock Research Institute and to its development partners and investors, including private and public agencies and farmers themselves, who are an integral part of the success of these programs.

‘I wish you all a very successful event here in Kenya to recognize ILRI@40. Kenya and my ministry in particular are delighted to have been part of the past 40 years, and look forward to even stronger and more fruitful engagement in the coming decades.’

Keynote presentation and panel discussion
The inaugural address was followed by a keynote presentation given by Modibo Traoré, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sub-regional coordinator for eastern Africa and representative to Ethiopia, the African Union and the United Nations.

Some of the challenges Traore raised in his presentation were:

  • Attracting livestock investors
  • Ensuring that Africans get sufficient daily protein in their diet (currently 17% of the population of Africa gets this compared to 29% of the population in Asia and 78% of the population in the Americas)
  • Ensuring that we integrate crop and livestock production
  • Creating conducive environments for food production with reduced reliance on food imports

The following are some soundbites from the panelists.

Fina Opio
Fina Opiyo

Executive director of the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA)

  • The future of livestock research for development is livestock production as a business venture, whether large-scale or small-scale. People should invest in livestock for profit; it should be competitive.
  • Investment in livestock is a long process  due to breeding animals with long life spans, which raises problems in funding livestock work. It just takes too long, but if we don’t invest in livestock now, it will only take much longer later. Development partners should invest now!
  • ILRI has done a commendable job already. I agree that breeding and health are both important and intertwined (you breed for productivity and disease resistance). The ‘models’ issue (moving into livestock associations) is really important. Innovation platforms matter here, to plan with different perspectives. The issue of youth matters here, and incubators can be the way forward.
  • Climate change is also crucial because technologies should look into ways to mitigate climate change, ways to build local resilience to climate change, and ways to better adapt to climate change. How climate-smart is our livestock management? Again, pay attention to women!

Kipkirui arap Lang’at
Kipkirui arap Lang’at

Chairman of the Eastern and Southern Africa Dairy Association (ESADA) and the Kenya Dairy Processors’ Association (KDPA)

  • The private sector is interested in investing in livestock only if there’s enough critical mass, that is, processing potential. Right now in Kenya and Uganda, there isn’t enough milk to process, so the private sector is not finding it attractive to invest.
  • Large-scale farmers are the way to go and they don’t need us. But what will we do about the livelihoods of smallholder farmers? ILRI should look at farming models able to help villages operate large-scale farms to improve productivity levels.
  • We need to inject new life into farming.
  • We should consider a shared farming model that involves the youth, one that links the youth in the rural areas with investors in urban areas.

Ibrahim Idi-Issa
Ibrahim Idi-Issa

Deputy executive secretary of the Comité permanent Inter-Etat de Lutte contre la Sécheresse dans le Sahel (CILSS)

  • Market access is critical.
  • Three main challenges we need more research on are productivity (including absorbing unemployed youth), better land-use planning and management, and managing rising insecurity.
  • We need to strengthen our policies and apply them.
  • The Africa Union has good policies but application and implementation by governments is sometimes a problem; governments should follow through and implement what they have set up.

Joseph Kipkoech
Joseph Kipkoech

Senior advisor for Vocational Skills Development at the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV)

  • In the past, livestock was viewed as a public sector for food security but nowadays the sector has been commercialized. Now we’re wondering how milk can be affordable, not necessarily for smallholder farmers but for everyone.
  • Whose poverty counts? We should invest in larger scale production enterprises to bridge the large productivity gaps.
  • Research should focus on the end consumers and private sector. The future of animal food products depends on current/young generations.
  • ILRI’s research knowledge should be made more available. Partner with the local media. Package the material and messages to increase public awareness

Modibo Traoré
Modibo Traore
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sub-regional coordinator for eastern Africa and representative to Ethiopia, the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)

  • Commercial smallholder farmers don’t need us for investing money but for judicious regulation. Secondly, farming is one of the only options 75% of our populations have.
  • The political gain of investment is very important: If you invest in productive infrastructures (e.g. those that boost productivity through research, inputs, etc.), people don’t recognize this investment.
  • Intensive commercial farming is not a panacea; don’t idealize it. It is not a sustainable mode of production for the planet.
  • It is possible to have smart intensification that does not compromise the environment.
  • Productivity levels need to be improved in smallholder farming systems.
  • Health, feeds, breeding all contribute to better productivity; we need to invest in these three areas.

Bright Rwamirama
Bright Rwamirama

Honourable Minister of State for Animal Industry in the Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAIFF)

  • We need more research on zoonoses.
  • Invest in areas that will stimulate growth, e.g. water for agricultural development, disease control and research.
  • We still need smallholders; their contribution to the economy is significant; we need to make their land more productive.
  • There is high demand for dairy products in Africa but production does not meet the demand; there is need to produce more to fill the deficit.
  • We need to feed our animals better; and we need to find ways for our farmers to adapt better to climate change to help them cope with that and other environmental changes.
  • We need to work with development partners.

Summing up by moderator Ed Rege
Ed Rege
An animal geneticst by training and experience and now chief executive officer of the Institute for People, Innovation and Change in Organisations (PICO)–Eastern Africa

  • I’ve heard you all raise three main areas for future investment:
  • Technologies: Health, genetic improvement, feed/nutrition options; increased resilience to changing climate.
  • Institutions: Make them work; provide large-scale outlets for small-scale production; increase access to inputs; provide innovation platforms to give farmers access to information; involve youth in livestock production and livestock value chains.
  • Policies: Develop judicious policies and then ensure you follow them.

One of the news clippings the day generated
‘On Wednesday (October 1), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi celebrated its 40th anniversary. The celebration at the Institute’s Headquarters was attended by representatives of the Government of Kenya, founding member countries and various institutions, as well as livestock scientists.

Ambassador Shemsudin Ahmed Roble, Ambassador of Ethiopia to Kenya and Permanent Representative to the UNEP and UN Habitat congratulated the management and staff of ILRI for their enduring efforts to support the development of the agricultural sector in Africa.

‘He noted that Ethiopia, one of the founding members of the Institute, has worked very closely with it and had benefited greatly from its research and from the development activities aimed at improving the livelihood of small holder farmers.

‘The Ambassador said ILRI activities in Ethiopia complemented the efforts of the Government to transform the agricultural sector. ILRI had been working with various government institutions at regional and federal levels to support the development of the livestock sub-sector and with the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, a specialized agency established by the Government as a focal institution for research and development to realize the development objectives of the Growth and Transformation Plan.

‘Ambassador Shemsudin stressed that the objectives of ILRI research and development fitted closely with the development agenda of the Government, to ensure food security through intervention that could increase productivity of the crop-livestock sector. He also expressed the Government’s commitment to continue working closely with ILRI in transforming the agricultural sector to improve the livelihood of small holder farmers.’

More information
Read the whole news clipping at The International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi Celebrates Its 40th Anniversary, 3 Oct 2014.

You can watch and listen to the ILRI40 plenary presentations and discussions here:

Follow the hashtag #ILRI40 to stay abreast of all of ILRI’s anniversary events.

View all pictures of the Nairobi 1 Oct event in this ILRI Flickr album.

View ILRI@40 tweets and pictures and news clips on ILRI RebelMouse.

Stay up to date on all the anniversary events on this ILRI40 event page.

Join our LinkedIn Group, International Livestock Research, for news and conversations and more!

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