Agriculture / Capacity Strengthening / Communications / Event / ILRI / ILRIComms / India / Knowledge and Information / South Asia / Spotlight

Getting the (science) word out: ILRI and ICAR share livestock communications and knowledge management practices


Note: This is the eighth in a series of articles on
‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—
A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’.

PART 8: Getting the (science) word out:
ILRI and ICAR share best livestock communications and knowledge management practices

By Jules Mateo and Susan MacMillan,
of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

This is the first of three articles reporting on the ICAR-ILRI communications workshop.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) held a one-day joint communications and knowledge management workshop on 4 Mar 2016 at the National Agricultural Science Centre Complex, in New Delhi, India.


The workshop was held at the prestigious and handsome 22-acre National Agricultural Science Centre Complex at PUSA, New Delhi (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The goals of the workshop were to share experiences and best practices in livestock research communications and knowledge management and to explore opportunities for ICAR and ILRI communications teams to work together more closely. The workshop was jointly organized by ILRI’s Communications and Knowledge Management (CKM) team and ICAR’s Directorate of Knowledge Management in Agriculture (DKMA). Communicators, scientists and senior officials of both institutes participated in the workshop.

Former ICAR director (left) with Jimmy Smith and Alok Jha (right)

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith (centre) with South Asia regional representative Alok Jha (right) and former ICAR director (left) at the communications workshop (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).


Three of the ICAR keynote speakers (left to right): Rameshwar Singh, director of ICAR Directorate of Knowledge Management in Agriculture; H Rahman, ICAR DDG for Animal Sciences; and RK Singh, director of ICAR Indian Veterinary Research Institute (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The ICAR–ILRI workshop was organized around three focus areas:
(1) translating science-based practices into impact
(2) communicating evidence for wider influence
(3) managing research knowledge for wide accessibility and use

Five-to-six 10-minute case studies each given in each focus area. Following these short case study presentations, workshop participants split into small groups for further discussion. These groups gave participants an opportunity to ask presenters further questions and to recommend ways in which ICAR and ILRI might collaborate on animal science communications in future.


The communications workshop focused on three areas, with several short case study presentations made on each (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Focus area 1: Translating science-based practices into impact
Translating science-based practices into impact by communicating research outputs into potential development outcomes: Getting knowledge into use

For the first workshop focus, six case studies were presented by researchers from ILRI and ICAR, with topics ranging from old and new publishing vehicles (books and magazines, and web and mobile applications) to new publishing technologies (sending agricultural information to mobile phones) to new communication methods/approaches (innovation platforms).

BS Prakash, of ICAR, described ICAR’s traceability system for livestock value chains using radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging and geographic information systems (GIS). This system, which simplifies the process of tracing the source of infections in animals and determining the origins of animals, is available in kiosks and the data is made available to both livestock researchers and stakeholders. Workshop participants suggested that ICAR focus on creating greater awareness among farmers about this traceability system. They also suggested ICAR experiment with improving livestock feed resources through popular software, smartphones and more kiosks.


Sagarika Gandhi leads a group discussion on delivering livestock information through mobile phones (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Sagarika Gandhi, a consultant scientist, described a project she was involved in with ILRI to provide relevant and timely livestock information to farmers at low cost. This project, ‘mKisan: Delivering agriculture and livestock knowledge through mobile phones’, was conducted from 2012 to 2014. It was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and its implementation was led by the GSMA Foundation, an international mobile-for-development organization. The project made high-quality, difficult-to-source livestock information available in several forms, such as interactive voice response (IVRS), SMS, voice messages, on-demand videos and call centres. This project adapted and prioritized the content for mobile phones. At the end of two years, the project had 800,000 users, one-third of whom were repeat users; just 9% of the users were women. The project members discovered a stakeholder preference for high-quality, highly localized information, particularly on livestock vaccinations and feeds and fodder, and found it difficult to measure the project’s impacts on yields and incomes.

ICAR-ILRI Communications Workshop_Theme 1_Chart Writing_Mobile Platforms

The workshop participants suggested the creation of livestock content for Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms in future. They raised the possibility of setting up community radio stations and a joint ICAR–ILRI portal/e-hub for livestock information that would be more accessible to farmers. And they emphasized the need for high-quality, locally relevant, indigenous livestock information.

Himanshu Varshney, who manages ICAR’s website and leads the council’s knowledge management efforts, reported that ICAR is also delivering information to farmers’ mobile phones, in the form of voice messages and apps, and is using web-based information sources to communicate the council’s research findings. He explained that ICAR has diversified its media channels to cater to users from all sectors, with their diverse information requirements. He said that the ICAR website remains a vital source of information for many people. The website disseminates information, incorporates a content management system, reproduces e-publications of journals in the form of a digital library and pre-print versions of publications, provides a learning management system for teachers and students, and has built a knowledge management repository specifically tailored for farmers and agricultural extension workers.

During group work at the ICAR-ILRI communications workshop

Group discussions on websites (left) and popular magazines (right) (ILRI/Jules Mateo).

Making ICAR’s information available online, Varshney explained, raises the visibility of both ICAR and its research, reduces the time needed for readers to get access to print publications, increases ‘institutional memory’ and increases the impacts of ICAR journal papers. But Varshney also said that posting material on web pages was not enough. ICAR staff want to create a more interactive site and an improved content management system. Participants suggested that future ICAR-ILRI communications collaborations could focus on creating weather-based agricultural advisories and communications support for livestock disease surveillance and vaccination campaigns.

ICAR-ILRI Communications Workshop_Theme 1_Chart Writing_Web Platforms

Rameshwar Singh, head of ICAR’s Directorate of Knowledge Management in Agriculture (DKMA), said the main goal of ICAR’s book publishing program is to publish authentic, multi-author, peer-reviewed reference books containing the latest information relevant to India’s agricultural communities. To date, ICAR’s greatest successes have been in publishing textbooks, popular science books, and science monographs and manuals. Challenges remain, he said, in producing extension materials suiting specific regions and in building a global profile and audience. His staff are currently considering creating e-commerce portals.

Breakout group discussion

The group discussion on books was led by ICAR-DKMA director Rameshwar Singh (second from right, second row) (ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

ICAR’s popular magazines unit, said Jagdeep Saxena, a DKMA senior editor, is working to increase its reader/contributor base. At present, ICAR publishes four magazines, which it sells relatively cheaply thanks to a government subsidy. One of the unit’s main challenges, Singh said, is sourcing good livestock content; a possible collaboration with ILRI is seen as a good opportunity.

ICAR-ILRI Communications Workshop_Theme 1_Chart Writing_Book Publishing

V Padmakumar, an ILRI scientist and project leader, made a short presentation on ‘Scaling out research through innovation platforms’. He stressed the importance of inclusive and collaborative research, interactions and engagement, of ‘contextualizing’ the research agenda and of not working in silos. The participation of all actors in a value chain, of all stakeholders from all levels (village, state, national), should be encouraged, he said.


Hyderabad-based ILRI scientist V Padmakumar delivers a presentation on innovation platforms (ILRI/Jules Mateo).

Padmakumar described how his team and partners helped build innovation platforms for two ILRI projects he worked on—MilkIT in Uttarakhand and imGoats in Rajasthan. The workshop participants discussed the need for making research evidence visible and agreed on the importance of building strong partnerships and co-ownership of research.

ICAR-ILRI Communications Workshop_Theme 1_Chart Writing_Innovation Platforms

ICAR-ILRI Communications Workshop_Theme 1_Chart Writing_Innovation Platforms 2

Learn more about the ICAR–ILRI work plan for 2015–18.

Check back here for a report on the next theme of this workshop.

View pictures of the workshop.

Read previous parts in this blog series
‘Curds and goats, lives and livelihoods—A dozen stories from northern and eastern India’

Part 1, Colourful convocation: Jimmy Smith addresses graduates of India’s prestigious National Dairy Research Institute, 30 Mar 2016.

Part 2: Elite buffaloes and other exemplars of advanced Indian dairy science at the National Dairy Research Institute, 31 Mar 2016.

Part 3: Culture of the cow: Curds in the city—Better living through smallholder dairying in northern India, 5 Apr 2016.

Part 4: Building better brands and lives through peri-urban dairying and smart crop-dairy farming, 6 Apr 2016

Part 5: Wonder women of Bhubaneswar, 12 Apr 2016.

Part 6: Odisha Odyssey: The Arcadian landscapes and tribal goat keepers of Mayurbhanj, 9 May 2016.

Part 7: Odisha Odyssey: A look at the emerging commercial dairy value chains in eastern India, 12 May 2016


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