CGIAR / Fish / Livestock

Week 1: Working to transform selected value chains

The CGIAR’s core challenge is to reduce poverty and hunger, and improve human health and nutrition.

Diets that include adequate amounts of milk, meat, eggs and fish – the animal source foods (ASFs) – are essential if children are to develop normally, reaching their full potential as healthy productive adults. Consumption of even small amounts of ASFs is also associated with better pregnancy outcomes, reduced morbidity from illness, more competent immune systems and better immune responses.

While the global research system has contributed to improving livestock production and aquaculture in developing countries, productivity continues to lag behind the rest of the world. This limits the ability of animal agriculture to respond to rapidly growing demand in these regions. Research must become more effective in improving productivity and contributing to development outcomes.

As part of a broader change process, four CGIAR Centers involved in animal agriculture research (ILRI, WorldFish, CIAT, and ICARDA) are addressing this challenge by adopting a new approach. They plan to work more closely both with each other and development partners, and commit to increasing productivity of milk, meat and fish in a number of carefully selected value chains. In addition to having significant and measurable local impact on food and nutrition security and livelihoods of the poor, they also seek to generate and share new technologies and lessons about how this can best be achieved more broadly.

The proposed approach is outlined in the linked concept note: MP3.7 More milk, meat and fish-by and for the poor.

In brief, the four Centers will focus their research capacity in a limited set of high-potential meat, milk and fish value chains in specific countries. In these countries they will work as knowledge partners with development (including the private sector) and other research actors to help implement interventions that significantly improve productivity and increase production to benefit the poor. The Centers will draw on existing research to help ensure that development interventions are as effective as possible, while at the same time re-orienting their research capacity to apply the best that science has to offer to solve in real-time the priority problems that continue to constrain these value chains while exploring how longer-term research can begin preparing the future breakthroughs needed to sustain continued improvement.

The Mega Program will address complete value chains, not just farm level production. This is because poor farmers cannot adopt better production systems and technologies unless they have access to the relevant inputs and services and, critically, there is sufficient demand for their products. Also, other off-farm actors and activities in the value chain offer opportunities for reducing wastage, increasing value and creating jobs and opportunities for small-scale entrepreneurs.

The Mega Program will therefore concentrate its efforts on working with development partners to stimulate a transformation of a meat, milk or fish value chain benefiting the poor in 6-8 countries. Value chains will be chosen for their high potential for scaling out the transformation to other countries in the region as well as generating research results applicable more broadly. So while focusing locally for impact, we will continue to generate outputs relevant globally.

To implement this approach, the Centers will organize their joint research into three main components: (1) research focused on value chain development in the selected sites, linked directly to (2) cross-cutting adaptive and basic research on feeds and forages, animal genetics/breeding and animal health, and informed and continuously fine-tuned by (3) M&E, targeting research and learning.

This approach is not new; it draws on a number of trends and consolidates emerging lessons from experience with research-for-development (R4D). What is new, however, is a commitment by the Centers to hold themselves accountable for creating measurable impact through an R4D approach.

Getting your thoughts…

As a first round of input from our partners and stakeholders, we would like to get your reactions to the proposed approach described above by answering the following questions.

STEP 1: Please click here to answer three questions about our proposed approach, then come back to this page.

STEP 2: Next, please comment on these questions below.

Question 1: Impact through focus value chains?

The proposed approach commits the CGIAR Centers to achieve impact by catalyzing development and research interventions in a few value chains in a few countries. Is it an effective approach for the CGIAR to take? Please comment: What are the risks of such an approach, and how could we manage those risks?

Question 2: Can the CGIAR add value to other actors?

This approach assumes that CGIAR Centers can act as catalysts to attract new or align existing development investments (including by the private sector). It also assumes that different research partners will work together to support development partners as they implement major development interventions in the targeted meat, milk and fish value chains. Can CGIAR Centers offer sufficient added value for development donors and actors, including the private sector, to make this approach work? Please comment: What we would need to do for this to happen in an effective, sustainable and equitable manner?

Question 3: Wider impact?

Is it reasonable to expect that the focus on working to transform specific value chains in specific places will generate measurable local impact AND facilitate subsequent scaling out regionally AND generate technologies and research findings that will benefit international development efforts more widely? Please comment: What strategies could we use to ensure the lessons from the selected value chains in the selected countries benefit more producers and consumers more widely??

Question 4: Other concerns?

The topics for discussion in the next few weeks will focus on (1) how the focus value chains and countries are selected and (2) how to engage with our research and development partners in implementing the Mega Program. In the meantime, do you have any other major concerns about the proposed Mega Program that you feel merits more discussion?

15 thoughts on “Week 1: Working to transform selected value chains

      • This is exactly what we have in mind as part of the initial scoping activities — and we actually did an initial dry run of it during the stakeholder consultation meeting in Addis on August 24-25 (go the wiki where documents for this e-consultation are posted and look at the consultation meeting notes). The idea was to identify all relevant stakeholders and then evaluate their potential roles, what they do well and what they don’t do well, and why they would want to play that role well (or not). I have used the technique before and it is very effective in helping stakeholders (especially us!) to ‘hear’ how different actors perceive their roles and what their motivation is. This type of assessment clearly needs to be an initial activity in each value chain.

  1. Thats a good i dear,am also working with Heifer lnternational throug East africa Dairy project. I have worked closely with dairy farmers and by now i have a lot of experience with issues affecting farmers, the program which you want to start has a direct correlation with what we are doing. I would like to participate in your discussions later on.CGIAR has also tried to improve livestock productivity through the Sasha project of which we have helped to mobilise farmers and plant the sweatpotatoes.Thanks and will hope that we wil join the discussion.

  2. Increasing productivity of livestock would mean reducing the number of livestock to keeping genetically better animal species and enhancing the inputs with market support for the products. Generally, in developing countries rural farmers keep more heads of livestock as a an economic security that can be cashed at the time of emergency need. Also keeping more animals provide them a sort of cushion against high mortality due to infectious diseases. Alternate solutions for these concerns of farmers need to be addressed in the project to ensure immediate economic security to the rural farmers.

  3. it is a worthwhile venture since it will improve the nutrition level of the poor and most vulnurable but the selectiion of study countries have to be done properly.

  4. Generally this is well thought out concept note. The value chain approach and involving different partners including the private sector is the way to go if we have to have impact on the target communities, the poor, women and marginalized. Yes, impact on food security and improvement of livelihoods will be more visible if you like, if the poorest of the poor are reached. This has always been the most difficult part of any R4D efforts. So the catch words ” carefully selected value chains and countries” is very critical. Unless we have a criterion that leads us to target those who should be targeted directly or indirectly (e.g. supporting private processor(s) who would provide market for produce of thousands of poor farmers or employs thousands of workers) could help alleviate food insecurity for many). So it is important to have sound criteria. Otherwise we may run into the problems of “cherry pecking” working with those that have already shown to be innovative and adaptive and leaving out those that need the catalysis, i.e. the laggards, the dis-empowered, the marginalised, the disadvantaged. Sounds like it is all about equity and inclusiveness in social-economic development, and worst socialism which the majority of us seem to abhor. We can do the same and call it capatalising the poor!. I do not see another way out, reaching the poor and more widely so. We need a sound criteria for that “careful” selection.

  5. The programme’s objective is laudable. But there is a lot of work to be done. Donor support must go directly to the project beneficiaries to check official corruption and interference as some past donor funded programes have shown.

  6. Question 1:
    a. Presently, in India market of milk, meat, egg and fish is middleman oriented where producers (primarily farmers) do get proper price, as a result farming seems to be unprofitable for the primary producers.
    b. Market price is controlled by large traders where smallholders (major producers in India) have no role to play.
    c. There is risk of storage facilities of perishable products. In this case, large numbers of infrastructure facilities have to be created.
    d. Livestock production is also dependent on climate especially for fish production and feeds and fodder availability.
    e. Involvement of policy changes.

    Question 2:
    Involvement of research institutes, NGOs, Govt. departments, financial institutes, cooperative sectors, Farmers organizations, Agriculture Extension Centres, large and progressive farmers, producers and marketing agencies. In many cases it has been seen that research results/ recommendations are not included in policy, so policy makers should be involved at each step.

    Question 3:
    a. Interlinking of policy makers of different countries having similar type of problems.
    b. Group meetings in different places and countries.
    c. Involvement of mass media.

    Question 4:
    a. Egg may be included because for poorest of the poor section, egg has importance (particularly in India).
    b. Other aquatic animals other than fish, which have high protein value (if possible).

  7. I welcome an MP on livestock and fish farming by and for the poor, but fear that the current concept is focused too much on productivity, whereas other aspects, such as access of the poor to resources to be able to farm livestock and fish are probably more important. What is the point of working on increasing productivity of, e.g. goats, if poor women are denied access to grazing/browsing areas for their goats by richer people (from inside and outside of the community)? There is a danger that a value-chain approach focuses too much on the animals and livestock commodities and insufficiently on the institutions that frame the situation of poor people, particularly poor women.

  8. Africa is endowed with a lot of water bodies which are not exploited fully at the moment.The issue of bringing fish farming on board in intergrating with livestock is greatly appreciated. I am a member of the newly formed aquaculture working group in Zimbabwe. The group is in the process of coming up with a framework on conducting research in fish farming for the smallholder farmer.Fish farming( using artificial and natural water bodies) could speed up the availability of animal protein in rural communities of Africa

  9. This is an interesting development. Integrated value chain thinking is extremely important as was highlighted in the GCARD. The principle of increasing accountability of international research to end users is also very much welcomed.

    The approach would clearly also need to include consideration of food safety issues as well as household value addition possibilities through processing and, as Ann has pointed out, a focus on the particular constraints already preventing the poorest and disadvantaged from benefiting equitably from these markets – the risk otherwise is of their becoming further disadvantaged by not being able to take up the technologies involved.

    Caution is also needed as to the particular role and sustainability of the international public research in this context, rather than other actors who may have comparative advantage in local adaptation and action and who have long term responsibility and accountability for national development. There is a risk of international actions displacing national commitments and locally-owned processes, if partnerships are not developed equitably from the start and with a common and agreed focus of actions from the CG and commitments from others. Going beyond the research project focus to impact at scale clearly requires national capabilities (and for these to be developed in some cases) and sustained delivery through national systems, whether public or private.

    A related question is whether the centers involved themselves have real comparative advantage in some of the areas of social science, business development and post harvest technologies required or should a number of these aspects be better addressed in a more networked way through mobilizing and engaging partner expertise from other institutions also?

    In short, I welcome the change in thinking but the practicalities will require extensive discussion and mopbilization of many other research and non-research actors along the value chain.

  10. Dear Sir:
    I would like to thank you for giving us the chance to comment on the proposed plan. Before giving any comment about your proposal, I would like to know the number of scientists from the developing countries who contributed to this plan. Actually, we do not need scientists from developed countries to think for us. I think the plan is directed to alleviate poverty in the developing countries. Thus, the scientists from these countries should be given greater chance to contributing to this plan. For more than 30 years, ILRI has done a lot of work on livestock in the third world region. What is the significance of this work and to whom this work has been directed. All CGIAR organization including ILRI and ICARDA as well as FAO and IAEA recruit people mostly depending on a great deal of NEPOTISM. The equal opportunity condition is not completely met by these organizations. I am not going to give examples.All I can say there excellent scientists in the developing countries. I do no think we should give ideas for nothing.
    Good Luck
    Mahmoud Abdel Aziz
    Professor of animal breeding and genetics

    • Dear Mahmoud

      Thanks for your concern. Recruitment of international staff at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which works to reduce poverty in developing countries through livestock research, is highly competitive and based on objective criteria. You will see from the breakdown below of our current staff that more than half of the internationally recruited staff and scientists working at ILRI come from developing, not developed, countries.

      As of September 2010, 50 of ILRI’s 89 internationally recruited staff (56%) come from 22 developing countries (13 in Africa, 4 in Asia and 5 in Latin America).

      Among our 70 internationally recruited scientists , 29 (41%) are from developed countries and 41 (59%) are from developing countries. Of the 41 scientists from developing countries:
      33 come from Africa (13 countries)
      5 come from Asia (4 countries)
      3 come from Latin America (3 countries)

      Among our 9 internationally recruited staff providing research support (communications, biometrics, etc.) , 4 (45%) are from developed countries and 5 or (55%) are from developing countries. Of the 5 from developing countries:
      3 come from Africa (2 countries)
      1 comes from Asia
      1 comes from Latin America

      Among our 10 internationally recruited senior management team, 6 (60%) are from developed countries and 4 (40%) are from developing countries. Of the 4 from developing countries:
      2 come from Africa (2 countries)
      I comes from Asia
      1 comes from Latin America

      At ILRI, we take gender and diversity very seriously. We proactively recruit scientists from developing countries and our developing country scientists have been actively engaged in the development of these plans.


      Margaret Macdonald-Levy, Director of Human Resources, ILRI

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