Livestock program – the smallholder focus?

The Livestock Agri-food Systems CGIAR Research Program aims to seize the opportunity presented by the rapid increase in demand for animal-source foods in developing countries, coupled with the current suppliers of these being many millions of smallholder farmers to help drive the transition to sustainable, resilient livelihoods and diets for future generations.

The starting point for the program is the fast-growing demand for animal-source foods in consumer food baskets in the developing world as incomes rise: between 2010 and 2050 demand for meat and milk in developing and emerging economies will double and poultry meat will triple. With regional and country differences, this increased demand is pervasive across all developing countries and all livestock commodities.

So far, this increased demand has been partly-met through increased numbers of animals rather than by significant improvements in productivity. Smallholder producers play a major part in this.

Many countries are looking to meet the demand by importing production know-how on an industrial scale, increasing imports from abroad, or a mix of both. A third way is to meet demand by transforming existing in-country smallholder and pastoral livestock systems.

A key assumption of this proposal is that the third scenario, transforming smallholder and pastoral livestock production systems, offers the greatest potential for a research program to help meet growing demands for animal-source foods in developing countries. It can improve the quality of low-income diets, reduce import costs and other negative side-effects, significantly reduce poverty and make more efficient use of natural resources.

The focus on smallholder systems is also strategic from an environmental and health perspective, with the opportunity to double smallholder livestock productivity simultaneously presenting the chance to halve greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. For healthy livestock futures, ensuring that such increases in productivity come with concomitant appropriate drug use to mitigate the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and management practices that prevent food safety risks are also important.


1. Does the focus of the program on smallholders make sense? Will we miss anything crucial in this focus?

2. In developing countries, should livestock research prioritize livestock ‘goods’ (eg., livelihoods, manure, traction, nutrition) or livestock ‘bads’ (eg., emissions, obesity, public health, water use)? How do we strike a correct balance?


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23 thoughts on “Livestock program – the smallholder focus?

    and on the other side think livestock bads will be more condered an involved on reachers


  2. The programme is well focused and makes sense and will not miss out anything crucial. The balance can be struck by looking at ways to ameliorate enteric methane emission from animals in other to improve their productivity thereby enhancing livelihood of the people especially in rural areas.


  3. Question 1: The focus on smallholders in livestock related programs is not an option. It is rather a priority because livestock activities are majorly practiced by this target group in almost all developing economies. The focus on smallholder communities is even most relevant when we consider the sub-Saharan Africa. Research on livestock agri-food system is unthinkable without a focus on smallholder farmers. They are part of the system where the impact of the scientific research finally reveals itself in the form of increased household income, improved nutrition and health conditions. The issue is then to identify and decide on the cutting-edge research themes that should be undertaken with an immediate socioeconomic impacts on that target group, preferably, and leading to long-term, sustained and increased outreach to millions of smallholder families along the trajectory of growth.

    Question 2: Livestock research in developing countries should keep the balance between understanding both the ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ of the sector and should lead . to the reduction of the ‘bad’ effects of the sector by bring in innovation so that the environment and human health are not compromised. Research on the ‘good’ things should focus on improving livestock production systems and productivity to keep the production-consumption function in balance, with the likely expectation that both the human population and the demand for livestock source foods increase. The research on the ‘bads’ could help inform consumers on the appropriate use of animal source foods without jeopardizing human health and the use of technologies to reduce the negative impacts. For the developing countries it is unlikely that the use of livestock for food and non-food purposes would be ignored for years to come.


  4. Yes the focus on smallholder matters. But its not well articulated in the statement. Apart from mentioning that SHFs are important. I think there is need to put a more grounded basis for mainstreaming SHFs in the agri-food system.


  5. Not to miss out by focusing on SHFs I suggest we take a system approach e.g. value chain, Innovation systems, among others so that a clear position, role, function, importance, weight of the SHFs in developing, maintaining and sustaining the agri-food system is articulated and recognized.


  6. i think the smallholder focus does make sense. we have evidence of uptake of piecemeal innovations (grazing, water, vaccination of chicken en smallstock, the usual suspects as far as smallholders are concerned). we also have evidence for quite considerable improvement in productivity, of between 50-100% depending on type of livestock and management. what is needed is the approriate technologies, and surprisingly that has not been coming forth very much. there is still huge potential in many areas. this includes providing qualty inputs and providing a reliable and decentralised milk collection sector. all this is in the higher potential areas. integrated farsming (crop-luvestock) is a serious option there. for oxen, the same applies and zero razing is an option but often when the farms get smaller, zero grazing even is impossible. the farms are too dense to have enough grazing left. creating jobs for farmers and their families to earn enough to invest is necessary: they might be able to afford mechanised forms of tillage (but will lack the fertility-fuction of livestock). i think you should make clear what type of livesock production you are talking about: this is all relevant for high potential areas. what about drylands? usually for meat prodction? same applies in a sense: there is lots of potential to improve gradually and without risk the herd productivity. but drought risk is a concern. also, the land issue is important there in a different way as in the wet areas: land is being taken by various uses (urban, tourism, ranches, wheat etc ). and the market is not alsays close: how to process meat fror the urban market?


  7. i think you should distinguish between high potential areas and drylands. in the first there is ample perspective on improved productivity for small holders. incremental change will gradually increase that by 50-100 % as we have evidence of this. risk reduction, small changes to test technologies, for chicken and small stock mostly i think as this is smallholder farming. fertility in integrated systems will allow reduced input levels of fertiliser, spending should be on animals health, vaccination, feeds. for larger animals: usuall milk and oxen. the lattermay be reduced due to smaller and smaller lands. mechanisation of a sort is needed then: less manuere aand jobs are needed to earn the money . and business cases for renting out tractors (2wheel), but only after the low hanging fruit of smaller tech is done. the milk: great potential yet. very little is done to promote SS milk production; good inputs and a reliable market will allow huge gains in think. this has only started evven in kenya. the drylands are different but the sme: meat usually, and small change is prefered: water, feeds, but mostly btter crossbreeds (never the high productivity stuff) and animals health are crucial. when the market is allowed its way, this will develop too. the thing is: land is being taken away: urban. tourism, ranches, agriculture such as wheat.


  8. Q2: i think the goods still outweigh the bads, but development of those goods with an eye on the bads, would be good. eg better feeds improves animals growth and quality but can reduce methane production as well. different types of animals do that too. kangeroo, i’m not kidding, has almost no methane production. but serious: this can be managed at the same time.


  9. Question 1: The focus of this program makes sense; given the majority of farmers in developing countries are smallholders. One issue that is often not considered is that smallholders are seen as a homogeneous group though they are quite heterogeneous regarding their specific situation (differences in countries, regions, the institutional framework, production systems …). However, the often crucial influence large scale farmers/nucleus farmers have on the development of smallholders in their function as a possible growth catalyst should be considered too.

    Question 2: A research prioritization is neither so easily achievable nor is it desirable from a sustainable development point of view. A livestock research program should always bear in mind the reduction of the “bads” while implementing the “goods”.


  10. Q1. The focus on smallholders make sense considering that in our region, most of livestock farming is practiced under smallholder production system which contributes significantly in national GDPs.
    Q2.The smallholder livestock production has many constraints: poor livestock breeds, poor animal feeds, pests and diseases, small land holdings, poor infrastructure etc. Research should therefore focus on both “goods” and “bads to ensure maximum productivity of the sector while also taking into consideration on public health and environmental aspects.


  11. The focus on smallholder sounds right. The smallholder farmer is however at the far end of the research and development continuum. It is therefore important that our research also includes the many other actors/stakeholders that contribute to the changes we anticipate to see for the smallholder farmer. This is especially in understanding how these actors advance the use of our research.


  12. Q1 The smallholder livestock make a sens but it will depend on type of animals, potentiality of each region. The good way is to analyse country concern by country and promoto the kind of each area depending on his potentiality.

    Q2 The bad or good issues of research prioritize on livestock are important to prevent any unbalanced question. A good research must prevent and evoid the trade-off.


  13. The smallholders focus makes a lot of sense for reasons already indicated. However it would be advisable to add the dimension of the future of farming as a business. That means not just productivity increase, but also livelihoods and how to grow from smallholder to medium sized farms with a good future and increasing options for investement.

    Would be wise to look both at goods and bads. You always have to work with increasing benefits (goods) and reducing costs (bads). Including environmental costs etc.


  14. The idea of increasing in-country production to satisfy consumer needs makes sense, but not so sure about the focus on smallholders. Emphasis on pastoralists and medium-sized farmers will be more promising in the long run, if we look at it from a demand perspective. Smallholders, by definition, engage in a variety of incoem generating activities of which livestock is only one. Once they earn enough to send their children to school they usually stop keeping livestock. Its of course great from the perspective of poverty alleviation, but not great from the perspective of sustainable livestock production. Encouraging pastoralists and paying them for environmental services in addition to creating opportunities for good income from their products will probably make more long-term sense.


  15. Small Holders are traditional practices and they are the basic from where we all started,
    The growth of livestock was as a result of the reserved breeds developed from small holders. It is not a waste of time to think back and look on what worked, What can wa do, And how to scale up the productions of small holder and make their livilihood better.
    Sure this group needs encouragement and should not be abandoned. The small holder should be give the newly research high breed, and be supported with funding to increase their capacity and output.


  16. The smallholder focus is very relevant, but should mean “research for them and with them”. Knowing the barriers for adoption of research technologies by smallholder is key if one wants to make impact. Country policies, strategies, priorities in agriculture should be analyzed and well known in order to guide country choice. How and when can a research program have made impact? easier with development programs, but hard in research program….there is need to establish a M&E tool to capture this….


  17. The smallholder focus is very relevant, but should include a profound analysis of them. Smallholders are too divers to be put into one category that can be served by ILRI research. This has been the pitfall of many good intentions. Yes, smallholders have in common that they raise limited numbers of livestock, but there are more dominant production factors that differentiate them, making it impossible to refer to them as a uniform production unit. Though we know the problem, most evidence of this has been provided by anthropological research and only limited research into this phenomenon has been done by livestock-related sciences. See also our (KIT) working paper ‘Enhancing rural labour productivity: how to reach the rural poor’. In this paper we summarize the results of a systematic review of literature on evidence of impact of agricultural research on the rural poor. Key conclusion is: the very poor depend on wage labour for income, and for food security on marginal crop- and livestock production. Conventional agricultural research do not serve the interests of the latter. A pro-poor agenda would consider the nutritional return to labour, not raising farm productivity through intensification. So: unpacking the smallholder concept is of ultimate importance if we want to make any impact in the future.


  18. I am of the opinion that livestock research should prioritise ‘goods’ as smallholders cannot be kept accountable for the ‘bads’. The latter can be addressed through payment for community and nature conservation services. Smallholders must first of all aggregate capital before they can invest as individuals in reducing the ‘bads’. And mind you, per capita these ‘bads’ are significantly smaller as compared to large scale farming.


  19. Regarding the focus on “smallholders”, it depends how you define them. Many livestock keepers do not have any land holdings and may have what seem to be fairly large livestock holdings but – especially in the drylands – many head of livestock per family member are needed for survival of the family. Pastoral systems are often the most ecologically sound way of using dryland resources. Rather than trying to intensify pastoral systems and reduce their flexibility, ways need to be found to ensuring that they can continue to operate – that key resources are not blocked off for other purposes, disrupting the wider mobile pastoral system of using dryland resources. Much more attention needs to be given to issues around resource-use rights and multiple use of resources by different producer groups that do not undermine each other. This calls for social and institutional types of research and innovation.

    Another area in which ILRI has been giving attention in the past and needs to continue to give attention is that of pro-poor systems of processing and marketing animal-source foods so that both poor producers and poor consumers can benefit in terms of both income and nutrition. In the informal markets for animal-source foods, women play a key role, and this role needs to be strengthened or at least maintained. Don’t take the basis of livelihood of women and their families away by focusing research on resource-intensive and often environmentally detrimental forms of processing and marketing to meet only the needs of high-income earners. I agree that your third scenario offers the greatest potential for a research programme to improve the quality of low-income diets, reduce import costs, reduce poverty and make more efficient use of natural resources.


  20. 1) Improved productivity through better genetics and management practices makes sense so long as: (i) the improved breed sustains productivity under the ambient disease burden and climatic condition, (ii) the cost of improved breed and management practice is offset in a sustainable way by increased profit, (iii) Points (i) and (ii) are proven in situ before encouraging small holder farmers in the target location to change current practice.

    2) Both the “goods” and “bads” of livestock production should be addressed with the goal of increasing the former and decreasing the latter in each production unit.


  21. 1.Do smallholders cover all categories of poor livestock-keepers? What about the pastoralists who keep large herds but are disenfranchised and need attention. Therefore there is need to define the smallholder, and whether it is in terms of livestock holdings alone or with reference to socio-economic status of the livestock-keepers and/or other sources of income besides livestock.
    2. what is the goal of the program? to alleviate smallholders out of poverty by increasing productivity and incomes by moving towards more industrial systems, and therefore ‘bads’ or is it to make smallholder production systems more viable and sustainable? we need research that will take cognizance of the variability and ways to manage it in a realistic manner.


  22. 1. Yes. With the continuous subdivision of land to smaller and smaller units thus creating a miriad of small scale farmers it makes sense to focus on such farmers. Encourage andpromote farming as a business. Subsistence farming will not yield the desired results.
    2. My view is that you focus on ‘livestock goods’ first. Once farming is profitable then the ‘bads’ should addressed through creating awareness on mitigation measures since they are likely to incur costs.


  23. 1. Does the focus of the program on smallholders make sense? Will we miss anything crucial in this focus? The focus on small holders makes perfect sense. However, as you state, it is likely that investments in larger-scale feed lots will occur in parallel. The competitiveness of these small holder systems vis a vis the feed lot approach will need to be assured.

    2. In developing countries, should livestock research prioritize livestock ‘goods’ (eg., livelihoods, manure, traction, nutrition) or livestock ‘bads’ (eg., emissions, obesity, public health, water use)? How do we strike a correct balance? This CRP needs to look at both. The livestock goods should be a major focus of the Livestock CRP; in conjunction with other AFS CRPs where it makes sense (e.g., dual purpose maize). However, for livestock bads, there should be significant involvement of/collaboration with CCAFS (emissions), A4NH (obesity and public health) and WLE on water use/quality. Of course, other selected international organizations and ARIs should also be involved.


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