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HOW livestock researchers do science, and with WHOM, determines WHAT their science achieves

My mind-map from Thore & Andy's 'Research Impact' workshop at MSRC

Agricultural economist and livestock and climate specialist Patti Kristjanson argues for innovation in livestock-research-for development; the image is ‘My mind-map from Thore & Andy’s “Research Impact” workshop at MSRC’ (image credit: dumbledad’s Flickr photostream).

How livestock researchers engage with partners, and how they do and communicate their science, matter even more in developing countries than they do in Europe or North America.

This is an argument made by Patti Kristjanson, an agricultural economist formerly with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and now leading a project in the CGIAR initiative called ‘Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security’ (CCAFS), in a paper published in a proceedings volume.

Among the means Kristjanson advocates for getting livestock research products into use by farmers for poverty reduction are public-private partnerships, learning platforms, outcome mapping/impact pathway analysis, social network analysis, innovation histories, cross-country analyses, and game-theory modeling.

‘Livestock production systems in the developing world differ substantially from those in the developed world, and present unique challenges. These challenges are not just about raising productivity per se, but also involve addressing needed behavioral, policy, infrastructural, marketing and institutional changes. This paper discusses these challenges and some of the lessons learned in addressing them by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which has been working in livestock systems across the developing world for many years. ILRI pursues sustainable poverty reduction through livestock via three poverty pathways (ILRI, 2008):

‘Securing assets and reducing vulnerability . . .
‘Sustainably improving productivity . . .
‘Improving market opportunities . . .

‘ILRI has recently developed some principles providing guidance on how research can maximize desired poverty and environmental impacts . . . . Four of these principles are discussed below.

‘They begin with the proposition that ‘Livestock research and development efforts aimed at sustainable poverty reduction are more likely to be successful if’:

1. Livestock are seen within the greater context of peoples’ livelihood strategies, accounting for the fact that the resource-poor typically have more pressing concerns than raising the productivity of their livestock enterprises (e.g. increasing food prices, conflict, land and labor constraints). The multiple roles that livestock play for the poor also need to be recognized and the implications understood. These include enabling saving, providing security, accumulating assets, financing planned expenditures, providing livestock products (meat, milk, eggs, manure, draught power), improving household nutrition, and maintaining social capital.

2. Institutional, market and policy-related constraints are identified and tackled and not just technical constraints.

3. Interdisciplinary research taking an innovation systems approach is needed. Such an approach often includes collaborations with local communities, and engagement with public sector, private sector, NGOs, CSOs, as well as development practitioners and researchers.

4. Gender analysis and approaches to ensure poor women’s access to, and benefits from, livestock are improved. . . .

‘What does the large range of roles and functions that livestock play throughout the developing world imply for researchers interested in development? We’ve presented a set of principles that some diverse project experience (supported by the literature) suggests can help increase the likelihood that livestock research for development efforts will contribute to sustainable poverty reduction.

‘This experience leads us to the conclusion that how the research is done matters, a lot. This seemingly simple statement has huge implications for future research and educational approaches, however. It implies, first and foremost, that including diverse partners is critical to such efforts. Complex partnerships are never easy, however. The objectives of individual partners and organizations will vary considerably, and will not always be initially in line with 41 overall project objectives. Furthermore, nurturing these partnerships generally involves fairly high transactions costs (particularly researcher’s time). Students and young researchers need to be exposed to training and tools, processes and strategies that help limit the transactions costs and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of such partnerships. . . .’

Read the whole paper: Innovative research approaches for sustainable livestock production and poverty reduction in the developing world, by Patti Kristjanson, in Estany, J., Nogareda, C. and Rothschild, M. 2010. Adapting Animal Production to Changes for a Growing Human Population: International Conference, Lleida, Spain, 19–21 May 2010. Lleida, Spain: Universitat de Lleida: 35–44.

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