New, high-quality, drought-tolerant forage grasses could boost milk production by up to 40 percent

 

Photo credit: ILRI CLIPPINGS

Cattle grazing on Brachiaria grass at the ILRI campus in Nairobi, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/Collins Mutai).

Recent drought-induced livestock losses in East Africa mask deeper problem of animal feed scarcities

The following excerpts are taken from an opinion piece published by An Notenbaert, a former scientist with ILRI for 11 years who now serves as the tropical forages coordinator for Africa at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

‘With the onset of the rains, livestock farmers around Kenya might breathe a sigh of relief. But they have come too late for the thousands of cattle that have already died, hit by the drought that led President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare a national disaster in February this year. . . .

Yet this phenomenon is one which will not be solved by rain alone. It is down to a few, fundamental challenges which go deeper than drought.

Across east and southern Africa, livestock farmers routinely face the same hurdles in increasing meat and milk production: low availability of good quality livestock feed, especially during the dry season.

Our research shows that new, high-quality, drought-tolerant forage grasses could boost milk production by up to 40 percent, generating millions of dollars in economic benefits for struggling East African dairy farmers.

‘Some of these new varieties of a grass called Brachiaria, are high-yielding, nutritious and, because they are easier for cows to digest, animals produce far less of the greenhouse gas methane per liter of milk produced.

‘These benefits make it the most extensively used tropical forage in the world, with seed production already commercialized in big cattle-producing countries like Brazil. Yet Brachiaria grass originates in Africa. . . .

Read the full article: ILRI CLIPPINGS

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The conventional wisdom on the causes of widespread desertification is false.

 

Photo credit: ILRI

Goats graze drylands in the dry season in Zimbabwe (photo credit: ICRISAT/Swathi Sridharan).

The picture of the Sahara as marching inexorably south year after year is incorrect and was, moreover, an illusion created not by livestock over-use but rather by a recent string of dry years. Indeed, decades of satellite data are now confirming that the southern edge of the Sahara periodically moves south and north in response to changes in rainfall rather than changes in livestock populations. It thus appears that the conventional wisdom on the causes of widespread desertification is false.
—ILRI article, 1995

‘Desertification’—A timely synthesis of three decades of evidence that this topic has (long) passed its sell-by date

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Ian Scoones reviews a new book on the long history of myths about dryland desertification. Scoones, co-director of the STEPS Centre at Sussex and joint convenor of the Future Agricultures Consortium hosted by the Institute for Development Studies, is an agricultural ecologist by training and an ‘interdisciplinarian’ by practice. ‘Over the past twenty-five years, he has worked on pastoralism and rangeland management, soil and water conservation, biodiversity and conservation, as well as dryland agricultural systems, largely in eastern and southern Africa. A central theme has been a focus on citizen engagement in pro-poor research and innovation systems.’ 

Excerpts from Scoones’ excellent review, with its important messages, follows.

‘A great new book has just been published called The End of Desertification? Disputing Environmental Change in the Drylands . . . . It is edited by two people who know a thing or two about these issues—Roy Behnke and Mike Mortimore—and it has 20 top quality chapters from all over the world, documenting why the term desertification has passed its sell-by date, if it ever had one at all. It is an impressive and timely synthesis . . . .

The myths of desertification have a long history. Ideas of desiccation and desert advance framed colonial science, informed by the narratives of the ‘dust bowl’ in the US. Yet whether from long-term environmental monitoring, areal and satellite photography, ecological modelling or local knowledge and field observation, the standard narratives have been found severely wanting.

‘Unfortunately this accumulated evidence has been ignored, and the narratives of desertification persist. . . .

‘In the 1970s, influenced by the new mathematics of complexity, ecologists such as Bob May argued that stability not an expected feature of ecosystems, even under deterministic conditions. In the context of African rangelands, Jim Ellis and team in Turkana—notably through the classic 1988 paper—contributed to an understanding of ecosystems not at equilibrium where density-independent factors (rainfall/drought/flood/snow) meant that animal populations were not at equilibrium, and different management regimes needed to apply.

‘Challenges to desertification myths, and simplistic equilibrium approaches to rangeland dynamics based on Clementsian succession ecology, have long been made. . . . A new paradigm for African rangeland management was born. . . .

Why is it that, even when scientific evidence is incontrovertible, then shifts in policy discourse and practice doesn’t happen?

Read the full story: ILRI

Rapid adaptations of sheep to plateau and desert environments.

 

TibetanSheep_Crienglish

Photo credit: ILRI

Native Chinese sheep breeds, one of which is seen here grazing on the Tibetan Plateau, are serving as a climate change bellwether (photo credit: CRIENGLISH.com).

Badass Chinese sheep quickly evolved adaptations to extreme plateau and desert environments—New study

World Day to Combat Desertification

Photo credit: Google – Imgres.jpg

 

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June 

Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are
destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.(See PRESS RELEASE below).

COMMENTS

Willem Van Cotthem: We keep hoping that success stories and best practices will be applied at the global level. Priority should be given to methods and techniques providing daily fresh food to the hungry and malnourished. It cannot be denied that hunger and malnutrition are constantly undermining the performances of people. Application of existing success stories in local food production (kitchen gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, …) would positively influence the efforts to combat desertification (limiting erosion, stimulating reforestation, etc.). We keep hoping.

ReplyUnited Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Hi Willem Van Cotthem, would you like to share some success stories you have? We always welcome all to share!”

       ReplyWillem Van Cotthem : Hello Friends at the UNCCD Secretariat: It will be my pleasure to select a series of success stories in the literature. However, I am convinced that the UNCCD secretariat has the necessary documentation to compile even a book on this subject (to the best of my knowledge the documents, e.g. presentations at COPs and meetings of CST and CRIC, have been there during my active period in the CST and in Bonn). Please consider a consultancy to achieve top class work that would serve all member countries, the CST and the CRIC. To be presented at the next World Day June 17th 2016.

PRESS RELEASE
UNCCD’s Monique Barbut Calls for Long‐Term Solutions Not Just Quick Fixes To Drought Bonn, Germany, 22/02/2016 –
“Protect Earth. Restore Land. Engage People. This is the slogan for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification to be held on 17 June. I am calling for solidarity from the international community with the people who are battling the ravages of drought and flood. Let us find long‐term solutions, not just quick fixes, to disasters that are destroying communities,” urged Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
The droughts and floods beating down on communities in many parts of the world are linked to the current El Niño, which is expected to affect up 60 million people by July. In some areas, including in North Eastern Brazil, Somali, Ethiopia, Kenya and Namibia, the El Niño effects are coming on the back of years of severe and recurrent droughts. It is impossible for households that rely on the land for food and farm labor to recover, especially when the land is degraded.
What’s more, these conditions do not just devastate families and destabilize communities. When they are not attended to urgently, they can become a push factor for migration, and end with gross human rights abuses and long‐term security threats.
“We have seen this before – in Darfur following four decades of droughts and desertification and, more recently, in Syria, following the long drought of 2007‐2010. It is tragic to see a society breaking down when we can reduce the vulnerability of communities through simple and affordable acts such as restoring the degraded lands they live on, and helping countries to set up better systems for drought early warning and to prepare for and manage drought and floods,” Barbut said.
Ms Barbut made the remarks when announcing the plans for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification, which will take place on 17 June.
“I hope that World Day to Combat Desertification this year marks a turning point for every country. We need to show, through practical action and cooperation, how every country is tacking or supporting these challenges at the front‐end to preempt or minimize the potential impacts of the disasters, not just at the back‐end after the disasters happen,” she stated.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 17 June as the observance Day to raise public awareness about international efforts to combat desertification and the effects of drought.
Ms Barbut thanked the Government and People of China, for offering to host the global observance event, which will take place at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
“China has vast experience in nursing degraded lands and man‐made deserts back to health. This knowledge can and should benefit initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall, the re‐ greening in southern Africa and the 20 X 20 Initiative in Latin America. We can create a better, more equal and climate change‐resilient world,” she noted.
“I also call on countries, the private sector, foundations and people of goodwill to support Africa  when the countries meet later in the year to develop concrete plans and policies to pre‐ empt, monitor and manage droughts,” Ms Barbut stated.
The 2016 World Day campaign is also advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September last year. The Goals include a target to achieve a land degradation‐neutral world by 2030. That is, a world where the land restored back to health equals to, or is more than, the amount degraded every year.
For more information on the Day and previous events, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐campaigns/WDCD/Pages/default.aspx
For background information and materials for the 2016 Observance, visit: For information about the Global Observance event, visit: http://www.unccd.int/en/programmes/Event‐and‐ campaigns/WDCD/wdcd2016/Pages/default.aspx
Contact for World Day to Combat Desertification: Yhori@unccd.int
For Media information: wwischnewski@unccd.int

Transforming cassava peels into high quality feed

Photo credit: ILRI News

Bags of high quality cassava peel mash feed, Ibadan, Nigeria (Photo credit: ILRI/Iheanacho Okike)

Processing African cassava peels, potentially a billion dollar business

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With livestock production expected to more than double in the next 40 years, transforming cassava peels into high quality feed holds huge potential for African economies struggling to meet rapidly rising demand for animal-source products, according toresearch proposal recently published by three CGIAR centres.

Africa’s estimated 50 million tonnes of cassava peel waste per year could generate at least 15 million tonnes of HQCP, substantially addressing shortfalls in the supply of animal feed and eventually creating a USD 2 billion a year industry.

The research has been proposed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and International Potato Center (CIP), with the support of CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) on Root Tubers and Bananas (RTB), Humidtropics, and Livestock and Fish. Working closely with private sector partners, ILRI is leading the effort to develop and improve innovative technologies for processing cassava peels into high quality livestock feeds.

Within five years, the proposal sets out to facilitate the production of high quality feed from cassava peels, creating approximately 100,000 jobs and eliminating more than 20% of dangerous cassava peels from the environment. According to the projections, the knock on effects could benefit the wider African economy by as much as USD900 million over the project life, enabling the private sector to become independent, and drive increased uptake of related technologies and product uses.

Read the full article: ILRI News

Pastoralists may benefit from new rangelands management approaches

Photo credit: Google

In times of severe drought her husband may have to take the cattle far away to look for pasture.

 

New rangelands management approaches improving resilience and economic benefits for Kenya’s pastoralists

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Excerpt

A study that evaluate the changing nature of pastoralists’ institutional arrangements in response to socio-economic and ecological changes over a period of 10 years, and assessed how these changing arrangements are contributing to value of ecosystem services benefits, shows that co-management is now a significant feature of current institutional arrangements in northern Kenya.

Three types of institutional arrangements including elders only, group ranch committees and community conservancy boards were reviewed. Results showed that management of the rangelands has changed over time and co-management is now positively influencing the economic benefits communities derive from these ecosystems and is enabling pastoralists to diversify their livelihoods as part of enhancing their resilience.

The study was carried out in Isiolo, Laikipia and Samburu.

See the text: Livestock Systems and environment

Food safety in developing countries: An overview

Photo credit: AgHealth

A woman milks one of her goats in Ségou District, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).

New learning resource provides key evidence on food safety in developing countries

by Tezira Lore

Livelihoods advisers and other interested development professionals can now benefit from a new learning resource on food safety in developing countries. It was written by Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and published by Evidence on Demand, an international development information hub supported by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

The learning resource, Food safety in developing countries: An overview, aims to provide ‘non-food safety experts’ with a good understanding of foodborne disease within the broader context of ‘development’ discussions. It assumes that readers already have a solid grasp of international development contexts, and current development discourse.

It is presented in three main sections:

Read the full article: AgHealth