On Friday 6 July 2012, we convened a ‘Small Ruminant Value Chain Consultative Meeting’ in Ethiopia. Led by scientists from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas and the International Livestock Research Institute, we aimed to arrive at a common understanding of the goals, objectives and implementation approach of the program, discuss criteria for site selection and identify project implementation sites and identify potential partners and relevant research and development projects and their roles in the project.
The meeting followed from an earlier internal planning meeting that set out major milestones for the year.
The first item on the agenda was to discuss the shape and focus of the Program in Ethiopia. Participants tackled three general questions:
1. What are the benefits to be obtained from developing functional and sustainable sheep and goat value chains in Ethiopia?This question aimed to get at the heart of the reasons why this value chain – sheep and goats – is to be the focus of our effort. What can we expect to achieve? Among the points highlighted by participants: High and increasing local and international demand for sheep meat – so there are opportunities for the producers; small ruminant production is essentially pro-poor (including that it is accessible to women and disadvantaged groups, has low investment costs,has low feed needs and contributes to household nutrition); well-developed taste for Ethiopian sheep meat in foreign markets; supportive Government policies; well-developed leather industry that could be integrated with the meat industry; and Much space for better value addition and employment.
2. What are the most important challenges to address in developing functional and sustainable sheep and goat value chains in Ethiopia? This question aimed to tease out some of the constraints that we need to address through our research. Among the areas highlighted by participants: Lack of quality feed and other inputs; the great diversity in market channels, in terms of demands and product preferences; high kid and lamb mortality; issues around equity of benefit distributions – will the really poor really benefit; the poorest at poor do not often consume animal source foods; ensuring that value chain benefits are spread across the whole chain; improving linkages among value chain actors; deciding whether to focus on introducing improved exotic breeds versus local breed improvement; moving from ‘scavenging’ production systems towards more managed systems; high disease prevalence, however research and veterinary focus is mainly on diseases important to export markets and neglects diseases of smallholder small ruminants; and , more generally, drought and climate change.
3. What should be the main components of our research and development approach in developing functional and sustainable sheep and goat value chains in Ethiopia? The main focus here was on the ways in which the research should be carried out. Among the points raised by participants: Adoption of participatory approaches, including with the private sector; An impact orientation; proper monitoring and evaluation; seeking synergies with Government and other actors; demand driven, producing global public goods; pro-poor in focus; implemented in partnership with other actors; and with a commitment to openness, transparency and excellent communication.
The rest of the meeting mainly focused on the issue of site selection – where should the Program focus it efforts? And what criteria should be used to set priorities?
As in other countries, discussions were kicked off by a series of GIS maps of Ethiopia that brought together data on, initially, representative agro-ecological conditions, incidence of poverty, sheep and goat densities, and quality of market access.
To these, participants discussed a number of additional ‘soft’ criteria that could also be taken account of, including: Synergies with past and ongoing research, congruence with government priority areas, potential for success, links with research center locations, market potential, well-known supply areas, proximity to Addis Ababa, numbers of animals per household, and the importance of sheep and goats to household livelihoods.
Using this mix of ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ criteria, participants identified a long short list of potential districts where the Program could concentrate. This useful first listing will now be further assessed and data compiled to allow a decision on 4-6 sites to be made in September 2012.