Directorate / Ethiopia / Event / ILRI / ILRIComms / PA / Presentation / Pro-Poor Livestock / Research

Amidst change, a time to take stock of livestock science to reduce poverty

Carlos (18)

Carlos Seré, former director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) (photo credit: ILRI).

This week in the Ethiopia capital of Addis Ababa, the first board meeting of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) with participation by Jimmy Smith, ILRI’s new director general, is coinciding with a last farewell to ILRI’s outgoing director general, Carlos Seré, and his wife, Chrysille Seré.

ILRI thought this an appropriate moment not only to take stock of the ‘Seré legacy’, generated over ten years of Seré’s leadership, but also to take a snap shot of where ILRI is now, and to look ahead to where the institute should be headed in future, under Jimmy Smith’s leadership.

Highlights from the ILRI Board
In a live-streamed report back to staff by the board yesterday, Board Chair Knut Hove first welcomed Cheikh Ly to the ILRI Board of Trustees.

Ly, who serves as Regional Animal Production and Health Officer for West Africa at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), introduced himself saying that he is a veterinarian and agricultural economist who worked as a researcher, academic and manager before joining FAO’s Regional West African Office, in Accra, Ghana.

New ILRI board member Cheikh Ly
‘I’m committed to being an excellent board member for ILRI. I accepted to come here because ILCA [one of ILRI’s predecessors, the International Livestock Centre for Africa, based in Addis Ababa] did a lot of things for me,’ Ly explained. ‘I stayed here on this campus for two weeks 17 years ago. I received very important training here that impacted my life. I worked with a group that ended up being friends and we have promoted livestock for the poor ever since. I would like to now bring something back to ILRI.’

ILRI’s board chair then gave the floor to three distinguished members departing ILRI’s Board after many years of superb service to the institute.

Emmy Simmons, head of the board’s finance committee
‘This is my last meeting with the ILRI board. It’s been 6 years of pleasure working with this community. It’s my 20th year to visit Ethiopia. In these last two decades I have seen such amazing changes. With Wondirad [Mandefro Gebru], Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture] coming onto the board we have a strong representative from Ethiopia and a strong promoter of livestock research for development. It’s been pleasure, thank you all.’

Jim Dargie, head of the board’s program committee
‘I’ve been particularly helped by ILRI’s board chairs John Vercoe, Uwe Werblow and Knut Hove. Bruce Scott, our secretary, has been magnificent in ensuring the documentation we get before our twice-annual meetings. His depth of knowledge of both of ILRI’s main hosting countries, Kenya and Ethiopia, as well as of the CGIAR, is exceptional. I also acknowledge John McDermott, my secretary; I very much valued his advice and the preparation of the minutes. I’ve been proud to be a member of the ILRI Board. I wish you all the very best in your future endeavours and your lives outside your science.’

Modibo Tiémoko Traore
‘I thank you all for your support and friendship. I have learned a lot from my colleagues and team leaders. Through you I have learned more not only about your work but also about my own work. I wish good luck to the new director general and management team.’

The ILRI board chair closed the session by remarking that this year the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which supports ILRI and 14 other centres worldwide, is celebrating 40 years of work. ‘And I look forward to 40 more years of work by the International Livestock Research Institute.’

Farewell lecture by Carlos Seré
This, the last day of the board meeting, was also the first of the two-day LiveSTOCK Exchange event to take stock of ILRI’s past, present and future. This first day closed with a lecture by ILRI’s former director general, Carlos Seré, who has just completed his fourth week serving as chief development strategist for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in Rome.

Seré began by explaining that even before taking on the job of director general of ILRI, he travelled to many donors. What he heard from them, he said, helped ILRI to develop a new strategy back in 2002. ‘What they asked me,’ Seré said, ‘was: “How will your research impact poverty, on the ground?”’

It appears he spent the next ten years working to answer that question.

Below are excerpts from Seré’s farewell lecture. We will post the whole lecture here next week.

Excerpts from the lecture by Carlos Seré:
Livestock research for development in a complex, messy world:
Reflexions on a decade of work for ILRI

  • Our strategy, livestock as a pathway out of poverty, was ahead of its time in some ways. That livestock is both an output as well as an asset of poor people helps us link our work directly to poverty.
  • When I started at ILRI in 2002, we had disciplinary teams and we had regional program—and these operated largely as silos. I think we managed to move ILRI from research to innovations, from disciplinary programs to issue-driven themes.

New issues that arose during my tenure:

  • Vulnerability and risk management
  • Climate change
  • Innovations systems (with ILRI being one of the pioneers in this area)
  • Food safety
  • Emerging zoonotic diseases
  • Contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia
  • Live vaccine for East Coast fever
  • Gender issues

We discontinued work in several areas

  • Rumen manipulation
  • Methane emissions from specific livestock diets
  • Development of a vaccine against trypanosomosis
  • Ex ante impact assessments

Personal lessons

  • The importance of connecting the dots—from our strategy to our work.
  • The three Fs—‘Focus, Focus, Focus’.
  • Take some calculated risks—and understand you can’t win them all.
  • You can’t do it alone—impact is only achieved with partnerships.
  • Planning is the easy part—execution, the sticky bit.
  • The dramatically increasing importance of human resources to make all this happen.
  • Pay more attention to the efficiency agenda.

A few of the challenges we faced

  • We needed to better understand the evolving nature of rural poverty; we tended to have a stereotypic/static picture of the rural poor; lots of sources of innovation are coming not from public but from the private sector and rural communities themselves.
  • Getting country ownership of our global public goods.
  • Keeping up with the required pace of change; the context is changing fast for institutions like ILRI.
  • Engaging in large-scale policy processes.
  • Getting the governance for public RforD organizations right.

Some conclusions

  • Strategy is an on-going—not a one-off—job.
  • It’s essential to have a strong cohesive team leading the institute.
  • Livestock goods and bads are not going to go away from the global agenda soon.

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

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