Every agricultural research aims to benefit resource-poor farmers to eradicate poverty, hunger and malnutrition and environmental degradation.
What can researchers do to ensure their findings address the needs, impact, change and uplift the livelihoods of the targeted smallholder farmer?
Over 500 scientists, civil society, investment agencies, research institutions, policymakers, young agripreneurs, farmers and the media from all over the world gathered at the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) held in Johannesburg 5-8 Apr 2016 for thematic discussions to identify innovative systems for greater development impacts. They also explored ways in which international agricultural research can be more effective in contributing to national development outcomes. The commitment was to ‘leave no one behind’ on agri-food innovation and research for a sustainable world building on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to benefit the developing world.
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) participated in this conference as a member of the CGIAR Consortium. ILRI works to improve food security and reduce poverty in developing countries through research for better and more sustainable use of livestock.
ILRI was represented by top scientists led by Jimmy Smith, the director general. In preparation for the conference, efforts started in country levels where local partners including the private sector, local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local government extension workers participated in the national consultation workshop of CGIAR Site Integration process.
ILRI’s Siboniso Moyo was among the panelists reporting on their experiences/highlights of how the consultations went on in their respective countries. She shared her experience in site integration in Ethiopia. ‘We worked very closely with the ministry and key stakeholders from the sub regions to the national level to listen to their expectations so that they benefit from our research,’ said Moyo. Similar consultations took place in other countries including Tanzania, where ILRI country representatives joined other CGIAR institutions, government officials, farmers’ representatives and the private sector to identify research gaps and find strategic solutions mainly through working together.
Delegates at the GCARD focused their discussions on scaling up from research to impact, showcasing results and demonstrating impact, keeping science relevant and future focused, sustaining the business of farming and ensuring better rural futures.
ILRI’s Iddo Dror reminded the delegates how to ‘address the capacity needs of (today and) tomorrow’s researchers to meet the challenges and opportunities of future science’. In his presentation, Dror encouraged research for development (R4D) organizations to ‘walk the talk’ for their science to entice and fulfill diverse audience needs, by incorporating instructional design theories and applications into their research to achieve behaviour change and impact at scale. He called for more investments in professional capacity development skill-sets at the organizational level.
Engagement with dairy research and development partners in Tanzania illustrates how ILRI is responding to this need of working with various partnerships.
The vision of a program in Tanzania locally referred to as ‘Maziwa Zaidi (more milk) is an inclusive and sustainable smallholder dairy value chain. Through one of its R4D projects under this program, ILRI and partners implementing a MoreMilkiT project are testing interventions to empower pre-commercial dairy farmers in Tanga and Morogoro regions to become more commercial through participation in dairy market hubs, where they can access inputs and services.
The approach has benefited producers linked to milk traders such as Leah Mwilaki, who collects milk from her neighbours and transports it to urban markets where she buys animal drugs and feed to sell back in the village. ILRI and Sokoine University of Agriculture are responsible for the research, while development partners Faida MaLi, Tanzania Dairy Board and Heifer International are piloting various interventions related to the hub approach that actively involves private sector players like ASAS Dairies Ltd.
Stimulating discussions from the themes brought up live examples of the impact of partnerships, such as the National Agricultural Research Institute of Uruguay (INIA), a public non-governmental institution presented by Mario Allegri, where the government and farmers have been co-governing and co-financing its operations for over 20 years. Such relationships ensure adoption of technologies which contributes to a country’s growth of the agricultural sector through results and technology products that have economic, social, environmental and institutional impacts. R4D institutions in developing countries like Tanzania can adopt such a system to facilitate a bottom up approach which ensures demand-driven research that eventually promotes sustainability.
A standing ovation was given to Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, the chief executive officer of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), who presented the two ‘wicked problems’ facing the research community. ‘Malnutrition and climate change are the global wicked problems because they are hard to define, interdependent with unseen consequences and mainly associated with policy failures; and require many players to contribute towards addressing them,’ said Sibanda.
ILRI’s research on meat, fish, eggs and milk in different countries is contributing to fight these wicked problems. In terms of nutrition, the African Chicken Genetic Gains project is working with the public and private sectors in three African countries to test and avail high-producing, farmer-preferred genotypes to increase smallholder chicken productivity. This is one among the many projects by ILRI that has been contributing to meeting global nutrition needs; especially the much needed animal-source food that is important to women and children.
To tackle climate change, innovative products such as the weather index-based livestock insurance by ILRI’s Index-based Livestock Insurance project (IBLI) are generating evidence aimed at rescuing smallholder farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia from drought-induced livestock losses, increasing resilience to climate change. The insurance enables smallholder farmers to insure their loans and investments to purchase and use agricultural inputs. Still on climate change, a pilot study in Tanzania was done to address knowledge gaps around environmental aspects associated with dairy intensification’s increased demand on resources such water and nutrients use, and greenhouse gas emissions. The study will identify and enhance win-win outcomes for productivity and the environment.
To build sustainable livelihoods, it was observed that multi-stakeholders from the agricultural sector should find ways to work together by building partnerships, capacities and mutual accountabilities. In light of this, GCARD3 delegates agreed to implement the following outcomes: to work with rural communities to shape their own futures, CGIAR and other international research systems to engage with, strengthen and add value to national partners to deliver national development objectives; and the public, private and civil partners to find new ways of bringing together finance and capacity development operating through community-driven, nationally-led and internationally-supported mechanisms.