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DID YOU KNOW? ILRI in the Livestock Global Alliance


The following remarks were made by Shirley Tarawali, assistant director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on 26 May 2016 at a side event held at the General Assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health, in Paris. At this event, an alliance of leading organizations in global livestock issues launched an advocacy brief and related materials aiming to bring the often overlooked sector to the forefront of solutions to global development challenges such as food security, health, economic growth and climate change.

The Livestock Global Alliance unites the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and World Bank Group.

Snapshot of ILRI

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is one of 15 international agriculture research centres of the CGIAR Consortium and the only one dedicated entirely to livestock research for the developing world. ILRI is co-hosted by the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya and also has regional or country offices in 16 other locations in Africa, South and Southeast Asia. Drawn from 40 nationalities, ILRI has a work force of about 750 staff globally.

The institute works through extensive partnership arrangements with research and development institutions in both the developed and developing parts of the world. ILRI’s research and development work covers areas ranging from laboratory-based biosciences in animal health, genetics and feeds to field-based integrated sciences in the areas of animal productivity, food safety and zoonoses, livestock and the environment, gender and livelihoods, and policy and markets. Capacity development and communications and knowledge management are important parts of the institute’s mandate and cut across all its research and development areas.

Livestock Global Alliance

ILRI and the World Bank jointly convened the first meeting that created the Livestock Global Alliance in April 2012 at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya. At that time, both ILRI and the World Bank were developing new institutional strategies and recognized the need for greater coordination among the key global livestock sector actors working in the public domain. Particularly in the face of increasing criticism of the livestock sector by industrialized countries and agenda, there was perceived need for a coherent and common voice providing evidence-based information and balanced perspectives about livestock issues.

Participants at the initial meeting identified the need for closer partnerships, with each organization bringing to bear its comparative advantages. It was believed that by working together more closely, institutions in a Livestock Global Alliance could more effectively communicate why livestock remain essential to the society, health and wellbeing of the world’s poor and why addressing both the challenges and the opportunities presented by the livestock sector is critically important.

While the five organizations involved in the alliance are diverse in their operations and mandates, all share a common vision of the multiple and central roles that livestock can play in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Each of the participating institutions has committed to reaching out to its constituencies with these central common messages. As a member of the CGIAR Consortium, ILRI will also harness the breadth and depth of agricultural research from across the CGIAR’s 15 member centres and global research programs to communicate science-based options for sustainable smallholder livestock futures.

As the livestock sector globally remains greatly underfunded, ILRI and its Alliance partners are working together to raise understanding of just how adequate funding will enable the livestock sector to serve the SDGs.

The three pillars of the Livestock Global Alliance are social equity, global health and environmental sustainability.

Social equity

ILRI researches the roles of livestock in livelihoods of the poor, spanning the following.

  • Gender roles in livestock livelihoods and households.
  • Income-generating opportunities for producers, processors, traders and service providers along livestock value chains.
  • The role of livestock as both assets and safety nets for the poor.
  • Development, with private companies, of the first-ever (index-based) livestock drought insurance serving pastoralists in remote regions of East Africa.
    Between 2008 and 2011, recurring droughts cost Kenya some USD12.1 billion, with the livestock sector incurring 27% of this loss, about USD3.3 billion. Early impact assessments suggest that those who purchased ILRI’s livestock insurance policies experienced a 36% reduction in distress sales of livestock, a 25% reduced likelihood of eating much smaller meals, and a 33% reduction in dependence on food aid.
  • Technological solutions for increasing livestock productivity and opportunities for small-scale livestock producers to participate in markets.
    Markets for livestock commodities are growing rapidly in developing countries, where most livestock production growth is occurring, and are expected to continue to grow for several decades, opening opportunities for small-scale producers, with as many as half of them women.

Global health

ILRI’s longstanding animal health research is conducted in the following areas.

  • Better control of key livestock diseases—especially those that are endemic and devastating to developing countries and for which major commercial vaccines are unavailable.
  • Development of new vaccines, including East Coast fever, African swine fever, Rift Valley fever, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and pestes des petits ruminants.
  • Production of the first-ever vaccine broadly available and affordable to the poor to control East Coast fever in African cattle.
    East Coast fever annually kills more than one million cattle and causes 12 African countries losses of some USD300 million. One million doses of the ILRI-produced East Coast fever vaccine has benefitted half a million people’s lives.
  • Development of new and improved ‘penside’ diagnostic toolkits to better identify disease and control disease outbreaks in smallholder environments where there is limited veterinary care.
  • Food safety and other challenges lying at the interface of human health, human and animal nutrition and animal agriculture.
  • Development and facilitation of One Health approaches to controlling emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases, which are transmitted between animals and people.
  • Development of practical risk-based approaches to ensuring the safety of milk, meat and eggs sold in the informal markets of developing countries.
    5 million consumers in Kenya and 1.5 million in India’s state of Assam are benefiting today from ILRI-partner research on safer milk.
  • The role of milk, meat and eggs in the nutrition of the poor, especially that of women of child-bearing age and infants in their first 1000 days of life.

Environmental sustainability

ILRI’s environment research focuses on increasing livestock ‘goods’ and reducing livestock  ‘bads’ in the following areas.

  • Opportunities for mitigating livestock impacts on the environment, in particular greenhouse gases, and for helping poor livestock keepers adapt to climate change.
  • Options for improving small-scale livestock productivity, with better manure management to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions from intensifying smallholder systems.
  • Practical incentives and policies for reducing livestock harms to the environment.
  • Good grazing management for rangelands
    Rangelands have the potential to sequester 8.6 million tonnes carbon each year.
  • Interventions enhancing community resilience, particularly in pastoral and agro-pastoral regions.
  • Establishment of a Mazingira (‘Environment’) Centre to assess for the first time the greenhouse gas emissions of Africa’s livestock.
    Current estimates of livestock greenhouse gas emissions used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) are based on livestock emission figures in developed countries and may be overestimating such emissions in Africa by as much as tenfold.
  • Facilitation of economically and socially viable community-based ‘eco-conservancies’ through early research in East Africa’s Masailands co-conducted with Maasai communities and communicators.
    More than 200 eco-conservancies have been established recently in Kenya alone, which are now protecting biodiversity as well as livestock populations, restoring rangelands to health and providing local pastoral communities with added income for their wildlife and environmental stewardship.

For further information, visit the website of the Livestock Global Alliance, where this communiqué is posted, along with an advocacy brief, a short animated film and other research-based information materials.

ILRI News blog: Sustainable livestock, sustainable lives: Livestock’s role in global health, equity and environment, 26 May 2016.

ILRI Clippings blog: Livestock are coming to the fore of sustainable development to-do lists, 25 May 2016.

ILRI News blog: A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector, 13 Apr 2012.


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