Earlier this month, we submitted the ‘livestock-fish’ research proposal to the CGIAR. CIRAD’s Philippe Lecomte kindly accepted to review the near-final version of the proposal before it was submitted. Here are his comments:
The team has made a colossal job and very interesting proposal for this MP. Congratulations for the work done. It is effectively very long, and at start quite heavy to go into but everything is inside the different parts and thoroughly justified.
If you still have time to refine, the best would be to concentrate on the first introductory and overview parts and distillate or reinforce a little bit more on some points the essence of the project.
Overall concept of research for development, justification, aims and objectives
Focusing at start on “by and for the poor” appears sound for such program, a short summarized descriptive assessment of what the term “poor” really covers would clarify the general scope (is it the general UN less than 1 or 2 $/d indicator or very probably here a more larger definition of the poverty in terms of revenue, capital, access to production means and information … these elements are present along the document and would gain to be more firmly stated in the head or starting overview).
Positioning: everybody is focusing on the numerous negative impacts of livestock productions in the world; here the project clearly addresses a major nutritional concern: protein supply in link to the cognitive capacity needed for the development of poor populations, a large and apparently growing share of the humans of our planet.
Many focus also on the fact that livestock systems in small-scale agriculture are inefficient and as such the larger contributors to negative impacts. Arguing that in counterpart it is in these systems that the larger gains of efficiency can be found and that for each $ invested the margin will be very much larger then in industrial systems would be sound.
A § developing the importance to maintain, improve and research into knowledge building systems, and to promote some kind of a research (grey) revolution, more collaborative, built on strong local, regional and international partnerships, that will be more effective than in the past. Reading the document, one can sometimes think that the CG will solve all the problems; I think it is important to say in the head part that as leaders you will promote, monitor, support the way international research will organize itself to contribute to the main themes addressed in the project. In page 40 you affirm this “our role as knowledge partner to development actors »; it would be useful to stress this point at the outset.
Theme 1: Technology Generation and Adaptation. Theme 2: Value Chain Development. Theme 3: Targeting, Gender and Impact Analysis, is coherent and federative for all the partners and regarding the study cases of the intended research. What still lacks in the head is a small diagram and comment showing the interactions between the 3. When ordering as 1,2, 3, it appears linear and not really connected, first science will develop technologies then implement in value chains and finally target and assess impacts.
Explaining (as it is detailed later in the document) that 1 and 3 are highly interconnected and exchanging questions, to conceive and develop 2 would improve the proposal.
The key is also to recognise the plurality of local development models, along with technologies and impact assessment, local policy analysis (priorities, chain management), comprehensive approaches on local poor’s strategies, etc.. would be helpful to reason the technologies’ potential adoption and value chaining and to go beyond the classical idea that outside market there is no salvation for the poor.
The project focus on a set of value chains and specific study case countries; technologies and lessons generated through this focused approach will be applicable in broader regional and global settings.
The idea of focusing on limited number of study cases is sound; it would have been less efficient to address all the problems in a large number of situations. The reasons to choose each particular case is justified, what is lacking is a short evocation of the common and comparative added value that could emerge and be shared in the way questions are addressed in the different situations and become exemplar for broader regional and global “by and for the poor” livestock development programs.
“Value” chains is an interesting concept to put forward. As previously discussed it is however still confused with the classical idea of “supply” chain. The term value could be reinforced and broadened to a larger extent to the high “ecosystemic values” that can be attached to the smallholder systems.
Accounting for all the “values” such as low NR energy consumption, high nutrient recycling potential, precise and parcimonious management of the resources, carbon storage potential in the tight link these system have to crops would be interesting. Less spillage and potential avoided emission from the manure, contrary to industrial intensive systems for which solutions will necessitate energy and add (unaccounted for till now) large emissions for treatment and exportations over long distances back to crops is another example. Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) approaches and tools can provide useful multicriteria indicators to describe these comparative values. Many of these elements are alluded to in the different parts; being more affirmative on these other values would reinforce the idea of value chains.
Synergies and linkages with other megaprograms is thoroughly detailed. It is certainly an important innovative positioning within the CG system. Along the same lines, highlighting more firmly the fact that you clearly address a new partnership strategy with NARES, ARIs and other stakeholders would be relevant.
– Science components (the 3 research Themes)
Research Theme 1: Technology generation and adaptation
Animal health is not my subject, but my feeling is that along with important infectious diseases and vaccines, it would be important to address also the more classical latent and neglected husbandry diseases that are severely impairing the efficiency of these systems such as mastitis, lameness etc…. in conjunction with the intensification of these systems would be sound in such a proposal.
Breeding and Genetics: no particular comments
Feeds: enabling phenotyping for crop residue fodder traits in new cereal or legume cultivars is something very sound to me. (Incidentally we were discussing this point for the upland rice straw this afternoon here in Madagascar.)
Biofuel residues, ok.
Making better use of available feeds on farm: I would add the idea that combinations of agricultural innovations, such as cover crop cultivation for direct seeding, combined with the feed use of part of the cover materials, could be highly synergic in crop livestock systems.
Transporting, trading and processing of feeds and forages, forage exchange is quickly developing; it is totally sound to address this in terms of value chains.
Research Theme 2 Value Chain Development
This part is very clearly rich in concepts; the idea of “a methodology platform for tailoring value chain development methods to animal products” will certainly attract researchers (among others CIRAD, I’ll definitely support collaborations with ILRI on this).
This value chain theme is certainly central and innovative in the approach of the project. It is thoroughly detailed and particularly well argumented; eventually try to summarise and bring this out a little more affirmatively in the overview.
Research Theme 3: Targeting, Gender and Impact
The same as for theme 2, I found this particularly well argued and structured. It is an important aspect of the research works developed in CIRAD. Here in the project, as said before, it is important to insist in the overview on the interaction between 3 and 1.
– Organizational structure and implementation plan
As described, the organizational structure appears classical and relevant regarding the aims of the project.