Fishermen and goats at the Niger River

Fishermen and Sahelian goats by the Niger River, in Segou, Mali (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

World Water Week in Stockholm is organized annually by the Stockholm International Water Institute and brings together experts from around the world to discuss pertinent issues around water and development.

At the start of this year’s World Water Week, taking place from 28 August to 2 September 2016, the University of Gothenburg, the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and the Swedish Ministry of Enterprise and Innovation convened a seminar on antimicrobial resistance and linkages between humans, livestock and water in peri-urban areas.

Among the speakers at the seminar was Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Her presentation was based on a report published in July 2016 by the Committee on World Food Security High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition. Grace was a member of the project team that wrote the report.

The presentation begins with an overview of the key role of the livestock sector in sustainable agricultural development and the global rise in demand for animal-source food, a phenomenon dubbed the ‘Livestock Revolution’. Some agriculture-associated challenges of livestock production are then discussed; these include antimicrobial resistance, foodborne diseases and zoonoses. Cross-cutting and specific recommendations to address these challenges are then put forward.

View the presentation: Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock?

Heading home at dusk in Mozambique

A boy returns home with his family herd at dusk in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique. Livestock farming offers unique features to support local livelihoods and economies in developing countries (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The year 2014 was declared the International Year of Family Farming. As the year comes to a close, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) last month launched a book, Deep Roots, that shines the spotlight on the important role that family farming plays in sustainable food production and conservation of natural resources.

FAO was the implementing agency of the International Year of Family Farming. Over the course of the year, FAO championed intense policy dialogue on family farming involving governments, networks of family farmers, civil society organizations, research institutions, academia and the private sector.

Deep Roots reflects the momentum generated by these discussions and captures diverse experiences, perspectives and insights on family farming from various authors and institutions from around the world.

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) contributed a chapter that highlights the role of smallholder livestock farming in supporting local livelihoods and economies in developing countries.

“Smallholder family farms still dominate livestock production in most developing countries, especially with ruminant animals such as cattle, water buffalo, sheep and goats,” the authors note.

“These animals can remain productive by subsisting largely on low-cost roughages, stovers and other crop by-products produced or gathered locally, providing smallholders with a comparative advantage over larger livestock producers.”

The book was launched in Manila, Philippines on 27 November 2014 at the global closing event of the International Year of Family Farming.

Access the electronic version of the book, Deep Roots

Access the chapter, Livestock farming boosts local economies in developing countries, by ILRI’s Steve Staal, Susan MacMillan, Jacqueline Escarcha and Delia Grace

Smallholder pig production in northern Viet Nam

Farmer Ma Thi Puong feeds her pigs on her farm near the northern town of Meo Vac, Vietnam. Intensification of livestock farming has been found to increase the risk of zoonotic disease transmission (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Modern farming practices, such as intensified livestock production, as well as environmental and biodiversity changes can be linked to the new wave of zoonotic diseases, according to a new study published in the 21 May 2013 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Human population growth and the expansion of agriculture to meet the ever-rising demand for food have been identified as the key drivers of recent outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic diseases.

These human behavioural changes have led to encroachment of wildlife habitats, resulting in greater interactions between people, livestock and wildlife and increased chances of spillover of potential pathogens from wildlife to livestock and, consequently, people.

“Intensive livestock farming, especially of pigs and poultry, increases the risk of disease transmission due to increased population size and density,” the study reveals.

Environmental changes arising from settlement and agriculture, including land fragmentation, deforestation and replacement of natural vegetation with crops, alter the structure of wildlife population, giving rise to new environmental conditions that favour specific hosts, vectors and pathogens.

The study was carried out in form of a systematic review by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Royal Veterinary College, University of London.

The research team sought to analyze qualitatively scientific evidence on the effect of agricultural intensification and environmental change on the risk of zoonoses transmission at the interface of humans, livestock and wildlife.

While the study has identified a clear link between the threat of zoonotic disease and the wildlife-livestock interface, it does not adequately address the complex interactions between the environmental, social and biological drivers of pathogen emergence.

For this reason, there is need to carry out local interdisciplinary studies that can come up with locally relevant solutions to tackle the threat of emerging and re-emerging zoonoses, the authors conclude.

Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at ILRI, is among the co-authors of the study. Grace also leads the agriculture-associated diseases theme of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

Read the full-text article

Citation: Jones BA, Grace D, Kock R, Alonso S, Rushton J, Said MY, McKeever D, Mutua F, Young J, McDermott J and Pfeiffer DU. 2013. Zoonosis emergence linked to agricultural intensification and environmental change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 110(21): 8399-8404.

Mozambican smallholder farmer

Celeste Sitoe, a smallholder farmer in Lhate Village, Chokwe, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The research priorities and value chain master plan of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) were among the topics discussed at an international conference on innovations and incentives in agricultural research for development, the proceedings of which have just been published online.

Delia Grace, who leads the food safety and zoonoses program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the agriculture-associated diseases component of A4NH, gave two presentations at the third annual Agricultural Research for Development conference which took place on 26-27 September 2012 at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

In addition to keynote addresses, the conference held parallel sessions that featured the work of several CGIAR Research Programs.

Grace’s first presentation highlighted the synergies between A4NH and the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish.

Research by the Livestock and Fish program adopts a ‘whole value chain’ approach and is targeted at selected animal-source food value chains with the aim of achieving impact at scale.

The A4NH value chain master plan is premised on four assumptions or hypotheses:

  • Nutrient-dense foods in basic diets can have important outcomes
  • Informal markets are most important and require risk- and incentive-based approaches
  • CGIAR research can work effectively at the demand side
  • CGIAR research has potential for consumer education and health

The second presentation focused on innovations and incentives in agricultural research for poor countries and highlighted two cases studies: an innovation that failed (community-based tsetse control in West Africa) and one that succeeded (training of informal sector milk traders in Kenya).

One of the key lessons from the case studies was that while innovations are the lever, incentives are central and value chain actors need to capture visible benefits.

Access the conference proceedings

About the Agricultural Research for Development conference
Agricultural Research for Development is the name of the annual multi/inter-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder conference on agriculture, livestock and forest research in an international development context.

It is organized by four networks: the Swedish Research Network – Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry for Development (Agri4D), the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative (SIANI), the Forest, Climate & Livelihood Research Network (Focali) and Future Agriculture.