Forty years ago, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) was a pioneer in livestock systems research, which was designed to take account of the complexity of real farming systems so as to be able to contribute to development.
Such systems-based research fell out of favour in the 1980s and 90s, but still continued to produce useful development outcomes. Since the early 2000s, however, it has regained its position, developing at ILRI to focus on ‘innovation systems’ and becoming a mainstream approach within the CGIAR Research Programs (CRP).
Impacts from this work have included policy changes on food safety in milk and meat markets, improved access of smallholder livestock farmers to input and output markets, and much greater awareness of gender issues in agricultural development.
The promotion and adoption of such systems-based approaches within national research institutes in developing countries would make a huge contribution to the development of smallholder agriculture.
Download a brief that illustrates how scaling up transdisciplinary research so that a systems approach can be applied by more and more scientists could make a huge contribution to development in smallholder farming.