Capacity Strengthening Clippings

Developing capacities through innovation platforms in agricultural research

Innovation platforms are widely used in agricultural research to connect different stakeholders to achieve common goals. To help document recent experiences and insights, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently published a series of short innovation platform ‘practice briefs’ to help guide the design and implementation of innovation platforms in agricultural research for development.

This eighth brief explains the roles of innovation platforms in developing the capacities of their members.

Developing innovation capacity through innovation platforms.

An innovation platform is defined as ‘a space for learning and change. It is a group of individuals (who often represent organizations) with different backgrounds and interests: farmers, traders, food processors, researchers, government officials etc. The members come together to diagnose problems, identify opportunities and find ways to achieve their goals. They may design and implement activities as a platform, or coordinate activities by individual members.’

One of the most important things that innovation platforms do is to build the capacity of their members to innovate. This is a crucial function. Innovation capacity is vital if the innovation platform is to achieve its aims. It is the invisible glue that ties successful innovation platforms together—the ‘capacity to get things done.’

Download the brief See all the briefs More on innovation platforms Related ILRI materials on innovation systems

This brief is authored by Birgit Boogaard (ILRI), Iddo Dror (ILRI), Adewale Adekunle (FARA), Ewen Le Borgne (ILRI), Andre van Rooyen (ICRISAT) and Mark Lundy (CIAT). It is a contribution to the CGIAR Humidtropics research program. The development of the briefs was led by the International Livestock Research Institute; the briefs draw on experiences of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, several CGIAR centres and partner organization.The series comprises 12 briefs:

  1. What are innovation platforms?
  2. Innovation platforms to shape national policy
  3. Research and innovation platforms
  4. Power dynamics and representation in innovation platforms
  5. Monitoring innovation platforms
  6. Innovation platforms for agricultural value chain development
  7. Communication in innovation platforms
  8. Developing innovation capacity through innovation platforms
  9. Linking action at different levels through innovation platforms
  10. Facilitating innovation platforms
  11. Innovation platforms to support natural resource management
  12. Impact of innovation platform

Filed under: ASSP, Capacity Strengthening, CapDev, CRP12, ILRI, Innovation Systems, Report, Research Tagged: innovation platforms, practice briefs

Animal genetic resources workshop: Uniting Africa in preserving our future

Workshop participants

A workshop on Animal Genetic Resources in Sub-Saharan Africa was recently held in Gaborone, as an ILRI-SLU capacity building Project in collaboration with the FAO, AU/IBAR and Team Africa. The workshop ran from 26 to 29 November 2013 with the main objectives of catalyzing and enhancing regional collaboration in order to improve training in animal breeding and genetics for sustainable use of Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR), plan and undertake research for development in prioritized areas of AnGR and improve capacity development including outreach activities in the relevant areas among others.

The workshop focused on strengthening national and regional structures for the management of farm animal genetic resources, and attracted participants from the SADC region and is co-hosted and supported by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), The Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU), the African Union Inter African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and FAO in partnership with the Tertiary Education for Agriculture Mechanism (TEAM-Africa), (Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), the SADC Secretariat and CCARDESA.

Professor Jan Philipsson, representing The Swedish University of Agriculture (SLU) pointed out that livestock is extremely important, not just in Botswana but also to the rest of the region. “A research was made and it showed that there is a still lot of work that needs to be done in animal genetics in the region” Philipsson said.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Animal Genetic Resource Branch representative Paul Boettcher, stated his delight at the existence of the workshop saying that it signifies great interest in genetic resources, something that could greatly benefit not only Africa, but the rest of the world.

The relevance of the initiative to Botswana was stated by the Deputy Permanent Secretary who said, “Livestock accounts for 80% of the Agriculture GDP, mostly from cattle, and you are all aware of the sophistication it takes to supply the delicate EU markets. Dr. Motsu, the Director of Animal Production, added on to say that the Tswana Breed semen is stored in the local gene bank and is available for research especially for enhancement.

During the workshop it was revealed that there was a need for the design and implementation of an improved conservation and breeding programe which would improve livelihoods and food security in farming communities.

The low input breeding scheme situation analysis showed limited livestock recording and low enrollment, proving that there is potential for regional collaboration and need for proper design of schemes for different species. A need for regional collaboration on herd improvement, growth on on-going initiatives and strengthening the animal production sub-committee was established by the SADC.

The ILRI-SLU general AnGR issues for discussion included among others, the prevention of breeds from being at risk, the use of resources for conservation of inferior breeds and investment in improvement of still promising breeds, conservation of genes or genotypes, controlled cross breeding and globalization in the use of breeding materials. They stated the safest way of conserving a population as to keep developing it, and to include capacity building at all levels. ILRI-SLU stated that in record keeping, feedback from the farmer is very vital and that if the records are not used then it makes the research useless.

FAO stated the need for countries to manage their AnGR as being, Livestock diversity is essential to food and livelihood security; livestock provide meat, milk, eggs, fibres, skins, manure, draught power, and a range of other products and services; livestock contribute to the ecosystems in which they live, providing services such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling; and genetic diversity underpins the many roles that livestock fulfil and allows people to keep livestock under a wide range of environmental conditions. They mentioned that challenges included limited capacity in animal production and breeding, not enough data on AnGR and lack of effective livestock policies.

Read the full news item

Filed under: Africa, Animal Breeding, Biodiversity, Botswana, Capacity Strengthening, CapDev, CRP37, Event, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds, Southern Africa Tagged: AU-IBAR, CCARDESA, FAO, RUFORUM, SADC, SLU

World Bank announces fellowship program for Africa

The first World Bank Group Fellowship Program in the Africa Region has been launched tol further the Bank’s efforts to attract and build the capacity of local talent and the African Diaspora across the globe.

The program will target highly talented and promising Ph.D. candidates, African or of African descent, and the program will help the World Bank Group, and especially the Africa Region, to aggressively attract and recruit talent, with a special focus on the Diaspora communities.

Selected candidates will be offered a six-month assignment under the mentorship of a senior staff member and would be expected to: (i) gain a comprehensive understanding of the World Bank’s mission and operations; (ii) access quality data for their research work; (iii) interact with seasoned experts in the field of development; (iv) produce a research paper/report; and (v) contribute to the World Bank’s mission.

More information

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Award, Capacity Strengthening Tagged: World Bank

AWARD Fellowships call 2014

AWARD is a career-development program that equips top women agricultural scientists across sub-Saharan Africa to accelerate agricultural gains by strengthening their research and leadership skills through tailored fellowships. AWARD is a catalyst for innovations with high potential to contribute to the prosperity and well-being of African smallholder farmers, most of whom are women.

AWARD is generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States Agency for International Development, Agropolis Fondation, and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. AWARD is a preferred service provider of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and is hosted by the CGIAR’s World Agroforestry Centre.

The deadline for 2014 applications is August 9, 2013. More information here

Filed under: Capacity Strengthening, CapDev Tagged: Agropolis Fondation, BMGF, Fellowship, The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, USAID, Women

Voices from the sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week 2013

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Change mindsets, embed policymaking, make efficient use of declining biomass, engage the private sector.

These and other recommendations of four participants attending the ongoing sixth Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6) are captured in this short (2:40-minute) video. This science week, organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), is being held in Accra, Ghana, all this week (15–20 July 2013).

Giving us a few of their thoughts in this video are:

  • Ndlovu Mkhunjulelwa, of the Department of Agriculture, Technical and Extension Services in Zimbabwe
  • Yusuf Abubakar, of the Agricultural Research Council in Nigeria
  • Trinity Senda, of Matopos Research Institute in Zimbabwe
  • Jonathan Chitambaa, of World Vision in Uganda

Ndlovu Mkhunjulelwa makes a case for feeding people ‘intellectually’ as well as nutritionally. ‘Capacity is key to driving innovation in society, because the main culprits [holding us back] are people’s mindsets. We need to integrate what local people know with what we know. When we do that, we can come up with a sustainable intervention strategy with real impacts on food security.’

Yusef Abubakar says we must ‘dialogue with the policymakers’. ‘To move forward in our research, we need support. And that support can only come if policymakers know exactly what we’re doing. I’m happy that in this meeting there’s going to be a ministerial platform where we’ll have an opportunity to interact with them.’

Trinity Senda believes we can use the scarce resources we have more effectively. ‘We tend to think our help will come from outside. Of particular interest to me [in this meeting] were biomass discussions on the competition between soil fertility and livestock feeding. Biomass reduction is a big issue in Africa’s semi-arid areas. I got some interesting insights about what strategic options need to be looked into regarding the declining biomass and increasing livestock populations.’

Jonathan Chitambaa thinks feed problems in Africa are now an issue that needs the attention of more than just researchers, governments and NGOs. ‘I think we need to engage the private sector more. In forums like this, I think it’s vital to include private-sector players who are, after all, part and parcel of the value chains we’re working in. We need to come up with common objectives for everyone, with all key stakeholders present, so that it’s easier when we go back to the field for us to implement some of the key interventions that we’ve designed together’.

FARA’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, includes marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). Follow the discussions on Twitter with the hashtag #AASW6 or visit the FARA AASW6 blog.

You can view slide presentations made at a livestock-focused side event on 15 Jul, hosted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which include a discussion of Africa’s biomass declines, here: Livestock research for food security and poverty reduction.

Filed under: Africa, Animal Feeding, ASSP, Capacity Strengthening, CapDev, Drylands, Event report, Farming Systems, Film and video, Fodder, ILRI, Innovation Systems, Integrated Sciences, Intensification, Interview, Nigeria, PA, Uganda, Vulnerability, Zimbabwe Tagged: AASW6, FARA

Developing value chain action plans for the Ethiopia Livestock Master Plan

Earlier this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) approved funds to support the development of value chain action plans for the Ethiopia Livestock Master Plan (LMP).

The project began on Wednesday, May 1, with the hiring of Dr. Asfaw Negassa as Value Chain Expert and Ms. Hiwot Yerga, as Program Coordinator.

ILRI is working with BMGF and the MOA to develop a Livestock Master Plan (LMP or ‘LMP Road Map’) which is intended to assist the MOA in developing a vision and strategy to inform its development support and investment planning, as well as to inform the strategies of the Foundation and other donors in their investments in Ethiopia.

The LMP will be a series of 5-year development plans for the key livestock value chains with specific strategies and timed activity plans with outputs, outcomes and expected impacts. The key chains (to be confirmed through stakeholder consultations) are expected to include: Live animals and meat, dairy, hides, skins and leather and apiculture.

The end product will be livestock value chain development or action plans that include specific technology and policy interventions to be implemented by MOA, together with its development partners (NGOs, etc.) and the private sector, with technical backstopping from international and local research organizations, and with managerial support from the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA).

The development of the LMP entails ensuring full and open consultation with all relevant stakeholders to ensure the ownership of all relevant stakeholders in the livestock sector, national and international, public and private, farmers and businesses, development practitioners and researchers, etc. As part of this process, ILRI is also assisting the Ministry to develop a Livestock Policy Support Unit (LPSU) which will be responsible for livestock sector development planning and policy analysis, including the development of the LMP.

The project also includes learning elements which will enable us to share the lessons from this experience with others trying to help African governments strengthen their agricultural development planning.

The project is coordinated by Barry Shapiro as part of his policy support to the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture. Barry’s role is part of ILRI’s strategy to deepen its engagement with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), and to raise the visibility and increase the impact of ILRI in Ethiopia, especially through influencing policy making and technology uptake, and capacity building.

Filed under: ASSP, Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Ethiopia, Livestock, Project, Value Chains Tagged: BMGF, LMP

ILRI publie un guide pour l’animation, le suivi et l’évaluation des plateformes d’innovation pour la gestion du bétail endémique

Un manuel intitulé les «Directives pour les plateformes d’Innovation: Facilitation, suivi et evaluation» a été publié par l’Institut international de recherche sur le bétail (ILRI) en mars 2013, en français comme en anglais. Ce manuel est le fruit du travail de  Pamela Pali et Kees Swaans, en collaboration avec Jemimah Njuki, Ranjitha Puskur, Abdou Fall, Nancy Johnson, Ndèye Djigal et Alassane Diallo.

Les populations de bétail ruminant endémique (BRE) dans les pays ouest-africains représentent diverses ressources génétiques uniques qui vivent sous la menace croissante de dilution génétique. Le Projet de Gestion Durable du Bétail Ruminant Endémique en Afrique de l’Ouest (PROGEBE, mis en œuvre sur douze sites du projet pilote dans quatre pays (Guinée, Mali, Sénégal et Gambie), vise à analyser les obstacles à la conservation in-situ et la gestion durable de trois espèces prioritaires de bétail ruminant endémique : les bovins N’Dama, les ovins Djallonké et les chèvres naines d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ILRI, 2011).

L’objectif de PROGEBE est de développer, tester et mettre en œuvre des modèles de conservation à base communautaire, des approches de gestion et stratégies pour préserver l’unique trait génétique/habitat complexe des espèces qui sont d’importance mondiale et régionale dans les quatre pays. La stratégie du projet est de rendre l’élevage des ruminants endémiques attractif à long terme dans les quatre pays. Pour ce faire, le projet tente d’évaluer et de consolider les mécanisme d’incitations existants pour la conservation et l’utilisation productive des races endémiques, tout en créant des incitations politiques supplémentaires en supprimant les distorsions issues de la production et des politiques de marketing, qui entravent le développement de la production animale endémique (ILRI, 2011).

Basée sur les leçons apprises sur les sites pilotes à travers la recherche-action et sur les modèles de conservation in situ du bétail endémique établis au cours du projet, PROGEBE voudrait développer et mettre en oeuvre un système sous-régional pour la coopération, la coordination et l’échange d’informations pertinentes relative au bétail ruminant endémique. Les Unités de Coordination Nationale (UCN) de chaque pays sont en train d’organiser des forums au niveau des sites et au niveau national qui contribuent à l’échange d’informations. L’unité de Coordination Régionale (UCR) a également pris des mesures pour favoriser les forums régionaux traitant de la gestion des ressources génétiques animales et de la transhumance en collaboration avec les organisations régionales ouest-africaines. Pour ajouter de la valeur aux initiatives déjà lancées par les équipes nationales et régionales pour échanger les informations, ILRI propose la création de plateformes d’innovation (PI) sur les sites et au niveau national pour améliorer la communication, la coordination et le partage de connaissance entre les parties prenantes clés au sein de PROGEBE.

Ce document fournit des directrices pour la facilitation des plateformes d’innovations et le suivi et évaluation (S&E) de processus et de résultats des plateformes d’innovations. Bien qu’il ait été écrit pour le personnel du projet PROGEBE au niveau des sites, ainsi qu’au niveau national et régional, ce guide est censé avoir une portée dépassant ce projet spécifique et s’applique en particulier aux projets qui ont une structure similaire.

A lire: Swaans K et Pali P. 2013. Directives pour les plateformes d’innovation: Facilitation, suivi et evaluation. ILRI Manuel 8. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya.

Voir tous les rapports du projet PROGEBE

Filed under: Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, CRP37, Gambia, Guinea, Innovation Systems, Livestock, Mali, Senegal, West Africa Tagged: innovation platforms, PROGEBE

Innovation platform facilitation and assessment the focus of guidelines from ILRI

A manual by Pamela Pali and Kees Swaans on ‘Guidelines for innovation platforms: Facilitation, monitoring and evaluation’ was recently published by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Innovation Platforms have recently gained ground as a mechanism to help stimulate and support multi stakeholder collaboration in agricultural research for development. Generally, they are a mechanism to enhance communication and innovation capacity among mutually dependent actors, by improving interactions, coordination, and coherence among all actors to facilitate learning and contribute to production and use of knowledge. It is anticipated that bringing different type of actors from the innovation system together for sharing experiences, knowledge, skills, ideas and resources contributes to economic gains through improved productivity and services by creating an enabling environment (i.e. supportive institutions and policies).

Prepared for a project on ‘sustainable management of globally significant endemic ruminant livestock of West Africa’ (PROGEBE), the manual draws on experiences in Guinea, Mali, Senegal, and The Gambia.

More reports from the PROGEBE project

Filed under: Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, CRP37, Gambia, Guinea, Indigenous Breeds, Innovation Systems, Livestock, Mali, Senegal, West Africa Tagged: innovation platforms, PROGEBE

Commodities, innovation and action research in Ethiopia: Invitation to a ‘livestock live talk’ on 27 March

The Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers project is coming to an end.

IPMS aimed to transform agricultural productivity and rural development in Ethiopia through market-oriented agricultural development. Project staff worked with the Ethiopian Government to try new and innovative approaches and technologies. The team worked to achieve this objective through four main routes: participatory commodity development in a value chain setting; knowledge management for and by the actors; improved capacity to innovate, learn and link; and development of policies, strategies and approaches for scaling out successful interventions.

When the project was designed, ‘action-oriented research’ based on ‘value chain’ development interventions was relatively new to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which led the project, and the CGIAR system – hence, the project appeared to be a rather strange duckling in the research pond. Results of the project were shared during several events, including a major conference and value chain exhibition at the ILRI campus in 2011, which coincided with the end of activities in the project’s pilot learning districts in Ethiopia. A subsequent no-cost extension period for the project, which focused on scaling out and promoting the project’s successful interventions, gave us time to reflect on the project’s approaches, modus operandi and lessons learned. These may benefit other projects now starting up, such as the ‘Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders’ (LIVES) and other R4D livestock value chain projects.

The lessons will be shared in ILRI’s next ‘livestock live talk’, to be held on 27 March 2013. Because this seminar will be held in the middle of a LIVES research planning workshop, it promises to attract over 70 participants and others beyond.

In this ‘livestock live talk’, the IPMS team invites everyone to reflect on:

  • The IPMS commodity development approach in an agricultural research for development (AR4D) framework
  • How IPMS implemented the AR4D approach in a research setting
  • Achievements and lessons

The talk will be held at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 1500–1600 hours.

Join the live presentation of this seminar online:


Livestock live talks’ is a seminar series at ILRI that aims to address livestock-related issues, mobilize external as well as in-house expertise and audiences and engage the livestock community around interdisciplinary conversations that ask hard questions and seek to refine current research concepts and practices.

All ILRI staff, partners and donors, and interested outsiders are invited. Those non-staff who want to come, please contact Abeba Asmelash at a.asmelash[at]

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Production, Capacity Strengthening, Crop-Livestock, CRP12, CRP37, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Extension, Innovation Systems, Intensification, IPMS, Livestock, Markets, Research, Value Chains Tagged: Azage Tegegne, Berhanu Gebremedhin, Dirk Hoekstra, IPMS, LIVES, livestock live talks, livetalks

Ethiopia TV broadcasts series on the empowerment of rural women

The Improving the Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers project was recently approached by the producers of ‘Egna’ TV program, one of the well-known evening Ethiopian TV shows, to document the project’s work on rural women empowerment.

Egna’s producer, Gelila Media and Advertisement PLC produce and broadcast TV shows focusing on ways that men and women balance their roles in their broader livelihoods especially in the metropolitan Addis Ababa and surrounding towns.

This time, the stories of IPMS were so intriguing and convincing to make the ‘Enga’ team travel hundreds of kilometers from the big city to document and share stories ofthe empowerment of rural women. The program is going out in four episodes for four consecutive weeks on Wednesday evening’s right after the 10:00pm news, with a re-run on Sunday mornings at 10:30am. The first episode was aired on Wednesday November 14, 2012. All the episodes are prepared using IPMS project results in its gender mainstreaming work in its sites since 2004.

A brief summary of the stories that will be in the series ‘Egna’ are;

Men proactively do house chores, Bure region, EthiopiaA young woman tilling the land, Bure region, EthiopiaEpisode 1: Gender role reversal
In Bure district of Amhara region, IPMS contributed in attaining equal chore division between men and women at home and outside. In one of the Kebeles in Bure, women till the land, while men proactively do house chores like baking injera and cleaning. In the end this creates a supportive environment and empowerment of both parts of the society.

Women in Metema community use knapsack sprayerEpisode 2: Women-friendly conservation tillage
Learning the advantages of applying round up chemicals over spending money on labour for weeding, women farmers in Amhara decided to purchase a knapsack sprayer and chemicals and to spray it themselves. Though it is considered unusual to see a woman spray her teff field, this decision has liberated those who had to depend on male labour in the absence of their husband or a male family member.


Women participate in fruit and coffee seedling production

Episode 3: Woman seedling producers
Kedija Yasin, a woman in Gomma district Oromiya Region, was determined to change her living conditions after her husband lost his regular job. She was one of the women targeted in the IPMS intervention areas for fruit and coffee seedling production. She learned new skills such as grafting, packing the soil, nursing the scions and the propagation of seedlings.

Tigray women involve in fodder production


Episode 4: Women’s involvement in area enclosure
In Astbi Womberta district in Tigray, female farmers are involved in area enclosure and fodder production. This brought positive impacts on environmental rehabilitation, recovery of fodder for bees and enhanced the production of feed for small ruminant fattening.

Filed under: Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, IPMS, Women

New Australian International Food Security Centre seeks partnerships in Africa

Commissioners in Africa

Mellissa Wood (4th left), of the Australian International Food Security Centre, and other members of the the Commission for International Agricultural Research on a visit to ILRI in March 2012 (photo credit: ILRI).

A new initiative has been launched by the Australian International Food Security Centre to improve food security in Africa. The centre, which falls under the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, will spend AUD33 million (USD33.8 million) over four years to support food production in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific region.

‘This initiative will give African researchers access to Australian research and expertise to support smallholder farmers, including livestock keepers, through partnerships that respond to their priorities,’ said Mellissa Wood, the managing director of the Canberra-based Australian International Food Security Centre. Wood was speaking at a meeting at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 17 July 2012.

The new program is looking to engage partners in Africa and over the coming months will identify priorities to guide its operations on the continent. Program staff will consult with agricultural experts in different countries and set up an international advisory committee and a regional office in the lead up to an international food security conference being organized this November in Australia.

By studying African farming systems and reviewing existing research on farming practices on the continent, this new initiative will work to help bridge the gaps that remain between agricultural technologies, policies and practices and their adoption by Africa’s smallholder farmers. ‘We want to understand the incentives and barriers to delivery and adoption and how to accelerate the provision of practical solutions to benefit smallholders,’ said Wood. ‘Understanding these issues will help us improve the nutritional quality, safety and diversity of food; reduce post harvest losses; and enable better access to markets and other business opportunities.’

One of the initiative’s ongoing activities includes a project on ‘Strengthening food security and value chain efficiency through family poultry and crop integration in eastern and southern Africa’. This project, now in its design phase in Tanzania and Zambia, will explore how family poultry and crop farmers can improve the efficiencies of their production systems and whether they can increase their trade by making better use of supplementary feed from their cropping. The project will also conduct ecological assessments status to identify best-bet opportunities for chicken farming. This project will make use of relevant research outputs of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, ILRI and other organizations.

The Australian International Food Security Centre is looking to work with national and international partners, including researchers, extension workers and the public and private sectors, to help increase and sustain the productivity of smallholder African farms, markets, value chains and social systems.

For more information email: or register your interest at

Read more:

Filed under: Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Event, Farming Systems, Food security, Livelihoods, PA, Partnerships, Southern Africa

IPMS project contributes to public sector capacity development in Ethiopia

Participants of Results based monitoring and evaluation training workshopResults based monitoring and evaluation, gender mainstreaming and mass insemination for improved dairying have been the subject of training interventions by the Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian Farmers staff in recent months.

Courses have been run for  staff of the Agricultural Growth Program (AGP) at federal and regional levels, to staff of regional offices of agriculture (Oromia, Tigray, Amhara), Federeal Ministry of Agriculture, Oromia Livestock agency, and Jimma University.

The programs and bureaus are taking the lead in organizing and facilitating these courses for their staff and inviting resource persons from IPMS. Project training publications on ‘Results Based Monitoring and Evaluation’ and ‘Gender and HIV/AIDS mainstreaming‘’ are resource materials used  for the courses. As well as getting print copies of the resource materials, participants are introduced to the Ethiopian Agriculture Portal, a web based gateway to agricultural information and resources relevant to Ethiopian agriculture.

Some reflections from these activities:

  • IPMS has made an effort to develop a knowledge-intensive culture internally and externally by encouraging knowledge sharing and proactively seeking and offering knowledge and skills development to public and private sector actors at different levels. The effort is leading to many requests.
  • IPMS has piloted various processes and approaches to enhance individual and organizational knowledge, skill and capacity on market oriented agriculture development. These activities enable us to learn effective ways of sharing our knowledge with different audiences.
  • The emerging linkages with major programs like the AGP will be useful for the forth coming ‘LIVES‘ project to form partnership in our work on livestock and irrigated value chain development across the country.

Related stories:

IPMS contributes to gender mainstreaming guideline of Ethiopia’s AGP

Results-based M&E training for Ethiopia’s regional agricultural officers

Recent IPMS reports and publications

Filed under: Capacity Strengthening, ILRI, IPMS Tagged: AGP, Amhara, LIVES, Oromia, Tigray

ጉብኝት ለመልካም ተሞክሮ ከ ሴቶች ጋር [Amharic]

This blog post is in Amharic, if you are seeing boxes download fonts here.

ይህ ዶኪመንቴሽን በግብርናው ዘርፍ የሴቶች መብትና ተሳትፎ እንዲሁም ተጠቃሚነት ተግባራዊ ለማድርግ የ IPMS (በኢትዮጵያ ምርታማነትና የገበያ ስኬት ማሻሻያ) ፕሮጄክትን እንቅስቃሴዎች አካቶ ይዟል። IPMS ሴቶችን ከወንዶች እኩል የፕሮጀክቱ ድገፍ ተጠቃሚ በማድረግ የስርዐተ ፆታ እኩልነትን ለማስፈን የበኩሉን አስተዋፆ አድርጓል። ይህ ዶኪመንቴሽን በአደኣ ወረዳ ያሉ ሴት አርሶ አደሮች በፕሮጀክቱ አማካኝነት በተደረገ የባለሞያ እገዛና የገበያ ትስስር ተጠቃሚ የሆኑበትንና ሰኬታቸውን ይዞ ቀርቧል።

ቪድዮ ተመልከቱ:

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Ethiopia, Extension, Film and video, ILRI, IPMS, Women Tagged: amharic, farmers, gender

Changing the face of agriculture in Africa–one (emerging woman) leader at a time

 Sheila Ommeh presents

CGIAR AWARD Fellow Sheila Ommeh, working at ILRI-BecA, gives a presentation on the importance of conserving and better using Africa’s native chicken breeds for World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte on 2 Feb 2012 at the World Agroforestry Centre (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

The Huffington Post this week carries a blog by Sir Gordon Conway, professor of international development at Imperial College London, who says that African governments and those that work with them need to make women a much higher priority. As an example of how much difference African women can make, he cites recent statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the work of Sheila Ommeh, an AWARD Fellow and chicken geneticist working at the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub (BecA Hub) of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya.

Sheila Ommeh is passionate about poultry. A PhD fellow at the International Livestock Research Institute, based in Nairobi, Kenya, Sheila hopes to introduce a disease-resistant chicken using indigenous breeds that can be easily produced by women farmers.

Sheila has a home grown understanding of the importance of poultry farming to the rural poor. Her mother and grandmother raised chickens to support the family’s children. But disease prevalence was high and the flock was wiped out on occasion. When the chickens died, money for food and school fees was in short supply. Sheila grew up determined to help find a solution.

‘The majority of those who produce, process, and market food in Africa are women. Furthermore, according to the FAO’s 2010–11 State of Food and Agriculture report, women make up, on average, 50 percent of the agricultural labor force in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Nevertheless, only one in four (25 percent) agricultural researchers in Africa is female. Even fewer, one in seven (14 percent), hold leadership positions in African agricultural research institutions.

‘So how can we ensure that Africa’s agricultural science and research is really focused on the needs of those who feed the world?

‘African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is a ground-breaking career-development program that helps female agricultural researchers to build their technical and leadership skills. The 250 women in AWARD come from 11 different countries, and share one common goal: to change the face of agriculture in Africa. . . .

‘In 2008, Sheila won a fellowship from AWARD to help realize her ambitions. On March 7—on the eve of International Women’s Day—you can hear more of her story, alongside other speakers from AWARD, the International Institute for Environment and Development, Oxfam GB, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Agriculture for Impact is working with AWARD and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development to convene the panel discussion on “Effective Solutions for Agricultural Development through Empowered Women Scientists.” . . .

Read the whole blog post at the Huffington Post: Who feeds the world? (Girls), 2 Mar 2012.

Read about Ommeh’s presentation in Feb 2012 to World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte: World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte in Nairobi town hall on ‘big picture agriculture’, 2 Feb 2012.

About Sheila Ommeh
Thirty-four-year-old Ommeh grew up on the slopes of Mount Elgon in western Kenya where indigenous chicken is a popular staple food for the rural community and where local breeds are reared mostly women and children. Newcastle and other viral diseases and the looming threat of bird flu threaten livelihoods of these small-scale poultry producers, and can lead to increased hunger and poverty. The focus of Ommeh’s recent PhD was a search for candidate chicken genes controlling for resistance, tolerance or susceptibility to chicken viral diseases such as bird flu and Newcastle disease, which to date have no cure or vaccine. Her long-term aim is to help build a genetically improved chicken breed that will be resistant to disease and easily adopted by the rural community.

In August 2008, Ommeh was among 60 African women scientists selected from more than 900 candidates in nine countries to receive an “African Women in Agricultural Research & Development” (AWARD) Fellowship for 2008–2010. AWARD is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the Gender and Diversity (G&D) program of the CGIAR.

Filed under: Africa, BecA, Biodiversity, Biotech, Capacity Strengthening, Event, Genetics, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds, Kenya, Opinion piece, PA, Poultry, Women Tagged: All Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development, AWARD, BMGF, FAO, G&D Program, Huffington Post, IIED, International Women's Day, Oxfam GB, Sheila Ommeh, Sir Gordon Conway

Building capacities in animal genetic resources – a ‘training of trainers’ approach

Since 1999, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)  has partnered with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to provide capacity building on the sustainable use of Animal Genetic Resources (AnGR).

This report by Julie Ojango, Birgitta Malmfors, Okeyo Mwai, and Jan Philipsson on Training the trainers – An innovative and successful model for capacity building in animal genetic resource utilization in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia was released by ILRI and SLU on 31 December 2011.

Scientists from 46 developing countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia have been trained on animal breeding and genetics developments, implementation of breeding strategies, and on teaching and communication methods.

Livestock accounts on average for about 30% of the agricultural GDP in developing countries, yet the productivity of many livestock populations is inadequate due to a complexity of factors. The genetic variability between and within species and breeds is largely unexploited at the same time as a continuous loss of genetic diversity takes place. Livestock productivity must increase to meet the projected demand for doubled meat and milk production within a few decades in developing countries, while minimizing environmental impact. These challenges require highly skilled people to lead the development in the desired direction. Unfortunately, developing countries suffer from a shortage of trained people, not least in the area of animal breeding and genetics, both at research and higher education institutions and in organizations responsible for livestock development.

It is in this context that the ILRI-SLU project has developed its philosophy of ‘training the trainers’ to effectively multiply knowledge and concepts to new generations of students, researchers and policy makers. This synthesis report provides insights and reflections on the project’s outputs and outcomes, and informs on the ways forward in terms of further investment in developing and strengthening human capacity in the field of AnGR.

Download the research report

More on this topic:

Filed under: Africa, Animal Breeding, Asia, Biodiversity, Biotech, Capacity Strengthening, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds, Livestock, Report, Research Tagged: AnGR, SLU

Increasing capacity for knowledge-based smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia

This working paper by Tesfaye Lemma Tefera, Azage Tegegne and Dirk Hoekstra of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), on Capacity for knowledge-based smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia: Linking graduate programs to market-oriented agricultural development: Challenges, opportunities and IPMS experience was released by ILRI in January 2012.

Graduate programs in agriculture and allied disciplines in Ethiopia are expected to make concrete contributions towards achieving market-led and knowledge-based transformation of smallholder agriculture. To that end, strengthening capacities of the graduate programs and linking them to development deserve due policy attention. No panacea exists, however, as to how the programs can be better strengthened, linked and become more responsive. Lessons from initiatives on the ground in the country and beyond are thus crucial to inform policy and the development of context specific innovative strategies. This paper aims to make a modest contribution to the discourse in Ethiopia and beyond on transforming graduate programs related to agriculture into ‘developmental institutions’. The paper highlights the imperatives for knowledge-based transformation of smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia and emerging roles of graduate programs; discusses key challenges of the graduate programs to realize their mandates and to meet ever changing expectations.

It also presents a case study of an initiative by +aimed at linking graduate programs through research by students to commodity value chain development and actors, and discusses qualitative and quantitative indicators of outcome in terms of enhanced research and learning experience. The paper draws out some lessons and identifies strategic and practical options, including from the review of good practices elsewhere, that may help to improve learning and research in the graduate programs. The analysis shows that the graduate programs are facing several challenges that could not be solved by government or by the programs alone, but rather require multiple linkages and collaborations. On the one hand, graduate programs need to be more proactive in creating links and partnering with regional and federal governments, and with development/interventions. On the other hand, actors who are truly committed to sustainability should be more willing to integrate systematically into development programs, as a critical component, partnering with and strengthening capacity in key capacity building national institutions, such as the graduate programs. Revitalizing the programs calls for taking a holistic approach and an innovation systems perspective, multi-pronged and multi-level strategies, and long-term commitments.

Download the working paper

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, Innovation Systems, IPMS, Knowledge & Information, Markets Tagged: CIDA, graduate programs

Strategic partnerships needed to build African scientific capacity for agriculture

A report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies provides an overview of agricultural science cooperation within the African research system; the university system; and the role of partnerships with the private sector.

The report identifies four key approaches:

Focus on Problems. Achieving results will require serious focus. Focus on the most real and serious problems in African agriculture and attack them in a coordinated way in local settings. Ultimately it will be up to African partner countries to set, through consultation, their respective development and research agendas. Encouraging partners to formulate and articulate national research priorities will help guide U.S.-African partnerships and lead to greater coordination and synergies across multiple actors and institutions.

Prioritize Individual Capacities to Improve Institutions. The individual researcher is still the bedrock for strong scientific advancement and institutional capacity. Although improving individual capacity is not the only way to strengthen institutions, it is vital to building capacity for the long term.

Foster Collaboration within National Scientific Community. There are significant benefits of scientists working together—on a problem, in a laboratory, and in a way that encourages lasting communication.

Promote Institutional Coordination and Communication. It is vitally important for scientific research in Africa to be more coordinated—for goals and strategies to be set at the national level, and for all levels of research centers, universities, and partnerships to support these goals. It cannot be underestimated how crucial the role of good governance and leadership will be in promoting coordination, supporting innovation, and attracting essential private-sector investment

Watch a video on the report:

Download the report …

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, Research Tagged: CSIS

Capacity building helps Ethiopia’s pastoral women transform their impoverished, drought-ravaged communities

Borana girl

Borana girl (photo on Flickr by Gustavo Jeronimo).

Layne Coppock, of Utah State University, and Solomon Desta, Seyoum Tezera and Getachew Gebru, of Managing Risk for Improved Livelihoods, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, report in the journal Science this month on a project they conducted in southern pastoral Ethiopia that indicates that capacity building can, and should, ‘set the stage for the use of new information and technology’ in pastoral regions of Africa. The authors say the results of their study demonstrate that such capacity building has specifically helped pastoral women transform impoverished communities in southern Ethiopia.

‘Poverty, drought, and hunger devastate people on Africa’s rangelands. We used an action-oriented approach from 2000 to 2004 to build capacity among thousands of pastoralists to diversify livelihoods, improve living standards, and enhance livestock marketing. The process included collective action, microfinance, and participatory education.

Poor women previously burdened by domestic chores became leaders and rapidly changed their communities.

Ethiopian Boran women's group (PARIMA project)

Boran women’s group in southern Ethiopia, who worked with the Pastoral Risk Management Project (PARIMA), in which these and other Ethiopian women were originally inspired by innovative, dynamic women from northern Kenya (photo by Claudia Radel/UtahStateUniversity).

Drought occurred from 2005 to 2008. We assessed intervention effects on household drought resilience with a quasiexperimental format that incorporated survey-based comparisons of treatment groups with ex post controls. Interventions led to major improvements in trends for quality of life, wealth accumulation, hunger reduction, and risk management. . . .

Excerpts (with reference and figure numbers removed)
‘. . . Pastoralists today are often poverty stricken and beset by hunger. Efforts to “develop” pastoralism have had little success. Human population growth, overgrazing, annexation of key resources by outside entities, physical insecurity, and underinvestment in pastoral areas contribute to declining per capita food production, reduced vegetation cover, increased soil erosion, loss of herd mobility, and more marginalized people. Multiyear droughts pose grave threats to pastoralists because crop failures and massive death losses of animals escalate into crises for food availability, income generation, and asset preservation. Technical options to increase food production or lessen pressure on natural resources remain elusive, largely because of environmental and social constraints. . . .

‘Once considered a prime example of sustainable pastoralism in eastern Africa, the Borana pastoral system of semiarid southern Ethiopia exemplifies the changes noted above. The people have become poorer and more vulnerable . . . . The main objective of this research was to determine whether pastoral livelihoods on the Borana Plateau could indeed be diversified in a sustainable fashion to lessen or reverse the downward spiral at the household level.

Ethiopian Boran community with ILRI's Seyoum Tezera (PARIMA project)

Boran livestock herders in southern Ethiopia in 2007 with ILRI’s Seyoum Tezera (middle of back row) of the Pastoral Risk Management Project (PARIMA) (photo by Claudia Radel/UtahStateUniversity).

‘. . . Stepwise capacity-building interventions were undertaken . . . . By 2004, this process had resulted in the creation of 59 collective-action groups on the Borana Plateau with a total membership of 2300. Capacity building for individuals took 3 years on average. Women made up 76% of the founding members of collective-action groups, and they quickly assumed leadership positions. This was surprising given the subservient domestic roles that women traditionally occupy in this society . . . .

We interpret these findings, overall, as evidence that the capacity-building package helped people become more resilient and better manage risks associated with the 2005–2008 drought.

‘Careful capacity-building processes can provide durable, cost-effective, and low-risk options for improving the human condition in marginal lands. This echoes the view that filling gaps in human development is the key for progress in Africa’s pastoral areas. Inputs such as trading grants may add value to capacity building in some circumstances. The cost of our capacity-building process was about U.S. $1 per person per month over 3 years. The low cost is due to the reliance on participatory education and peer networking . . . .

The greatest future challenges include how to reliably deliver effective capacity-building modules more broadly to the pastoral population, as well as how to sustain commercial livestock sales given the vicissitudes of markets and the crippling effects of drought.

‘A continued focus on technical solutions to rangeland problems by national or international research bodies assumes that technology is the driver for progress. We argue, rather, that here human development is the driver and technology provides the tools. Human development provides the vision, desire, and opportunity to improve lives, and technology can then serve evolving aspirations. . . .

‘Development scholars can strive to broaden the academic agenda by including more societal engagement as part of project research design. This can generate reliable scientific knowledge, as well as build human capacity at multiple levels. Our experience confirms that careful strengthening of human, social, and financial capital can rapidly improve lives and help transform communities in remote, harsh environments where the technical options to boost productivity remain elusive.’

This study was part of a project called Improving Pastoral Risk Management Project on East African Rangelands (PARIMA), which is part of the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program (GL-CRSP) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

EDITOR’S CORRECTION (of 12 Dec 2011): One member of the study team and co-author, Seyoum Tezera, was a staff member of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Two other members/co-authors, Solomon Desta and Getachew Gebru, were employees of Utah State University, based for most of this project at ILRI’s campuses in Nairobi, Kenya, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, respectively.

Read the whole paper in Science: Capacity building helps pastoral women transform impoverished communities in Ethiopia, by Layne Coppock, Solomon Desta, Seyoum Tezera and Getachew Gebru, 9 December 2011, Vol. 334, no. 6061. pp. 1394–1398, DOI: 10.1126/science.1211232.

Filed under: Article, Capacity Strengthening, Drought, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, PA, Pastoralism, PLE, Vulnerability, Women Tagged: Getachew Gebru, GL-CRSP, Layne Coppock, PARIMA, Seyoum Tezera, Solomon Desta, USAID, Utah State University

Livestock capacity development approaches: IPMS project experiences

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at ILRI, Dirk Hoekstra, Azage Tegegne and Berhanu Gebremedhin prepared an issue brief on capacity development approaches in the ‘Improving the Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian farmers’ (IPMS) project …

‘Capacity to innovate’ by value chain actors was identified as a key factor for a participatory smallholder market oriented agricultural development, thus IPMS focused on strengthening the innovation capacities of farmers, pastoralists, community-based and private sector organizations, and agriculture and natural resource management public organizations, through technical and entrepreneurial skills development and, facilitating linkages between relevant actors.

Download Issue Brief 14.

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosts a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event will synthesize sector and ILRI learning and help frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange will also mark the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

Filed under: Africa, Capacity Strengthening, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, IPMS, Livestock Tagged: IPMS, livestockX

Investing in people = investing in long-term benefits

For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Purvi Mehta, head of capacity strengthening, reflects on ILRI’s capacity development activities.

‘I joined ILRI in 2009. Before working at ILRI, I was director of a non-governmental organization in India that worked with the government and over 68,000 farmers in technology transfer and capacity development. I also worked for three years with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to build the capacities of local farmers in producing biotech crops.

‘One of ILRI’s historical contributions to development work has been its investment in capacity development. In the last three years, I have come across ministers, university professors and researchers in Africa who have benefited from ILRI’s capacity development programs. Most of these have trained at ILRI, attended seminars at ILRI or been postdoctoral fellows at ILRI. This large pool of regional experts is having a significant impact in development work across Africa.

‘I think investing in capacity development is not only about empowering future generations but also about ensuring sustainability. Development projects eventually come to an end but the capacities built into people stay with them and have a long impact. The people we empower become ambassadors of ILRI and of the livestock agenda.

‘At ILRI capacity development happens through graduate fellowship programs. Every year about 40 students join the institute. These students have helped us establish links with 39 universities across the world and many of them choose to stay on with ILRI after their programs end. In this way, capacity development is also an investment into ILRI’s human resources pool.

‘Capacity development also happens as we turn research outputs into developmental outcomes. Increasingly, both our donors and partners want to see the developmental impact of our research and evidence that our findings are reaching the grassroots. To take research to communities of farmers, national agricultural research centres and other boundary partners, we translate these research messages for end users through training of trainers programs and training manuals.

‘In future I would like to see ILRI use mobile technologies to increase the reach of our messages to the grassroots. I’d like to see more of our materials translated into local languages. And I’d like to see ILRI’s outputs have greater influence on policy decisions.

Watch the 10-minute interview with Purvi Mehta.

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. See all posts in this series / Sign up for email alerts

Filed under: Africa, Agriculture, Capacity Strengthening, CaSt, Film and video, PA Tagged: capacity development, IFPRI, livestockX, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt