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Livestock for Africa’s food security: Sydney launch of Australian International Food Security Centre

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Cattle in Africa (photo on Flickr by Jeff Haskins).

Last November (2012), Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), took part in a conference, Food Security in Africa: Bridging Research and Practice, held in Sydney, Australia, to launch the Australian International Food Security Centre (AIFSC). At the conference, the AIFSC announced an AUS$15-million Australia–Canada Research Program on Agriculture and Food Security.

Smith was one of the conference speakers. He spoke of the importance of livestock in achieving a balanced diet for 9 billion people by mid-century. Most of the world’s meat, milk and cereals, he said, comes from developing-country livestock-based production systems, where 80% of the poor keep livestock, which contribute at least one-third of annual household income; where small amounts of livestock foods have great impact on the cognitive development of children and on people’s health and well-being; and where women have a large role in raising animals and processing and selling their products.

Smith emphasized the huge opportunity livestock pose for Africa’s nutrition and food security. Livestock foods directly supply 17% global kilocalories and 33% of protein and also provide nourishing food for 830 million hungry people.

Demand for all livestock products will rise by more than 100% in the next 30 years, Smith said, especially for poultry, which is predicted to rise by 170% in Africa. Farm animals also provide livelihoods for almost 1 billion, two-thirds of them women. Small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock systems (less than 2 hectares in size and maintaining on average just 2 tropical livestock units) provide 50–75% of the total livestock and staple food production in Africa and Asia. This vast army of small-scale ‘mixed’ farmers, he said, provides the greatest opportunity for research to impact a trajectory of growth in the livestock sector moving towards inclusiveness – that is, equitable, economical and environmentally sustainable.

In an interview with Australian journalist Fiona Myers, Smith noted the complementarities in livestock research in the North and South.

Livestock producers across the world face similar issues. Feed and animal health are two vital factors that must be managed in livestock whether the herd is of two to three head in Africa, or on the vast scale of northern Australia.’

Smith believes research is key to the future of livestock production.

Smallholder livestock production can only be profitable and sustainable if research plays a role in modifying the trajectory of livestock development in poor countries,” he said. . . . It may be surprising to Australians, even with their proud history of livestock production and modern value chains, that 80 per cent of the world’s livestock products come not from grocery stores and supermarkets,” he said. [They] come from informal markets and small farms in developing countries, where small-scale livestock production employs 1.3 billion people.”. . .’

ILRI conducts joint livestock research-for-development projects with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Read the whole article in The Weekly Times (Australia): Not worlds apart, 23 Jan 2013.

View Jimmy Smith’s slide presentation, Sustainable and productive farming systems: The livestock sector, 29–30 Nov 2012.

Profiles of ILRI speakers at the AIFSC 2012 conference

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith
Jimmy Smith, a Canadian citizen, was born in Guyana, in the Caribbean, where he was raised on a small crop-and-livestock farm. He has been director general of ILRI since October 2011. Before joining ILRI, Smith for five years led the Global Livestock Portfolio at the World Bank and held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency (2001–2006). Earlier, Smith had worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (1991–2001), as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa, promoting partnerships for smallholder animal-based agriculture. At ILRI, Smith led the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme, an association of 10 CGIAR centres working on issues at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (1986–1991). Smith holds a PhD in animal sciences from the University of Illinois, in the USA.

BecA-ILRI Hub acting director Appolinaire Djikeng
Appolinaire Djikeng is acting director and a senior scientist and technology manager at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa (BecA)-ILRI Hub, in Nairobi, Kenya, where he heads teams concerned with the acquisition of appropriate technologies and management of state-of-the-art laboratory, the provision of research related-services to scientists from across the region, and research activities in the areas of genomics/metagenomics, small livestock and crop improvement with a special emphasis on food and nutritional security. Before joining the BecA-ILRI Hub, Djikeng was a faculty member of the J Craig Venter Institute, in Maryland, USA, where he developed novel genomics and metagenomics methodologies for ultra-high throughput sequencing of viral genomes (using next-generation sequencing platforms) to better understand and control emerging and re-emerging viral infectious diseases. Djikeng, who is from Cameroon, holds a PhD in biochemistry from Brunel University, in the UK, and conducted post-doctoral research and held a faculty position in the department of infectious diseases at the Yale University School of Medicine, in the USA. View the BecA-ILRI Hub’s director’s slide presentation at the 2012 AIFSC conference: Under-researched crops and livestock as key contributors to food security in Africa, 29–30 Nov 2012.

ILRI board chair Lindiwe Sibanda
Lindiwe Majele Sibanda is the chief executive officer and head of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), where she coordinates policy research and advocacy for a food-secure African continent. Sibanda is an animal scientist by training (she obtained her PhD at the University of Reading, in the UK) and a practicing commercial beef cattle farmer. She is at the forefront of the global agriculture, food security and climate change policy agenda and serves on numerous international boards, including ILRI’s, which she chairs. View the ILRI board chair’s slide presentation at the 2012 AIFSC conference: Drivers of Africa’s rainbow revolution, 29–30 Nov 2012.

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