Participants in the synthesis ‘fishbowl’

Balancing research and development: Livestock and fish research and value chain insights from Tropentag workshop

Blog post

On 19 September 2016, the CGIAR Livestock and Fish Research Program hosted a side workshop at the 2016 Tropentag conference. It brought together partners from across the Program to examine the approach it uses to accelerate agricultural research for development. Some 60 people participated.

For the past five years, Program partners have worked in a solution-driven approach to agricultural research for development that combines technical upstream interventions in animal health, animal feeding and animal genetics with interventions along value chains in 8 countries. Special attention has been given to inclusive value chain development, by and for the poor, targeting women and people facing environmental and public health issues.

This post reports on some of the discussions that took place. The session began with an introduction to the Program by Tom Randolph. Then, participants formed groups and interrogated scientists from across the Program (see topics and scientists below). The conversations covered lessons, mainly focused on specific value chains or on technologies related to livestock development. The session ended with a plenary synthesis on what these experiences mean for future research of this type.

  • Emily Ouma (ILRI) – transforming a smallholders pig value chain in Uganda from scratch
  • Amos Omore (ILRI) – developing multi-stakeholder dairy hubs and platforms in Tanzania
  • Rein van der Hoek (CIAT) – delivering climate-smart livestock interventions in Nicaragua
  • Barbara Rischkowsky (ICARDA) – empowering community-based sheep and goat value chain development in Ethiopia
  • Malcolm Dickson (WorldFish) – embedding action research in aquaculture development interventions in Bangladesh and Egypt
  • Birthe Paul and Jacobo Arango (CIAT) – environment and climate change framework and interventions
  • Ben Lukuyu (ILRI) and Juan Andres Cardoso (CIAT) –feed and forage discovery and delivery for smallholders
  • Rhiannon Pyburn (KIT) – equity and value chain assessment for empowerment (about the tools)
  • Karen Marshall (ILRI) – using animal genetic information to guide livelihood interventions in Senegal
  • Amos Omore and Emily Ouma (ILRI) – combining upstream and downstream animal health interventions in Uganda And Tanzania)

Highlights from some of the discussions       

Gender and equity

This session presented four gender-related tools: gender-integrated value chain analysis toolkit; gender capacity assessment tool for partners; gender-integrated FEAST; and, gender-sensitive participatory epidemiology.

The gender-integrated value chain analysis toolkit combined two tools: the existing and quite comprehensive value chain assessment toolkit; and the toolkit on gender transformative approaches (GTA).  It was tested in Bangladesh and parts of it have been used in gender-integrated studies in Uganda pig value chains. The question was asked as to whether the tool looked at livelihoods beyond animal-source foods when engaging in this research. Indeed, the toolkit asks about the other kinds of productive and reproductive work done by women and men in aquaculture or livestock-keeping communities. A key finding/observation is that gender norms are very dynamic, even between communities in the same region. Many examples of positive deviance came out – where people act in resistance to or differently from prevailing gender norms – and the conditions and reasons behind this. The value and importance of separate sex focus group discussions came out strongly.

The gender capacity assessment tool for partners was developed by Transition International and is now being used in Tanzania, Ethiopia and other countries to support discussions with partners on gender capacity. The tool considers several aspects, including: gender-responsive interactions in the approach of the organisation; gender analysis capacities; gender-responsive programming; including budgeting and leadership. The tool allows scientists to start a conversation with partners on gender and how together, progress can be made. We had some questions relating to how partners responded to the gender capacity assessment and how community members reacted to being questioned on gender norms. Our approach has been to ‘start conversations’ which seems to have effectively interested partners and not left them feeling defensive.

The gender integration of FEAST involved exploring in Ethiopia on a FEAST trial, where gender could be integrated in this widely used tool for feed selection as well as testing new exercises in Tanzania to check for the time and other trade-offs related to gender dimensions being added. We discussed the challenge of trade-offs and how to deal with seemingly contradictory information coming from men compared to women focus groups, for example. The comment was made by one of the participants that these kinds of questions are important and illustrate the complexity of real change and addressing real development challenges. A key challenge moving forward is how to balance between tool objectives (VC / feed assessment) and equity/empowerment/gender objectives. Time, efficiency, effectiveness, change all trade-off against each other.

Gender-sensitive participatory epidemiology training was undertaken in Ethiopia in the small ruminant value chain. A key outcome was the unexpected but significantly increased recognition by veterinarians of the knowledge that women have on animal diseases. They commented that it changed how they will do their work in the future – vets and others realize women also hold relevant knowledge.

More on gender in the Program

Aquaculture value chains

The session introduced the Program’s work with fish value chains in Egypt and the components of value chain analysis, genetic improvement (release of an improved strain of tilapia), best management practice (BMP) training, Women’s Economic Empowerment (supported by CARE in Egypt), innovation platforms, and addressing emerging fish health problems. In Egypt, there was a clear focus from the start on the development objective of creating employment. Impact assessment in 2015 demonstrated that fish farmers concentrated on improving profitability rather than production. Production increases were needed for employment creation. But BMP training allowed the fish farmers to save feed costs by feeding more efficiently. Informal women retailers benefited from a group-based approach – as a group they could stand up for their rights that they couldn’t do as individual traders.

Challenges included; How to increase innovation – multi-stakeholder platforms tend to result in incremental improvements but new innovative approaches are needed to achieve development outcomes; how to engage key stakeholders that are constraining the actions of other stakeholders but don’t recognize that there are problems. All these approaches need time to achieve results – the job is only half done!

Issues raised during discussion included: How to ensure sustainability of activities such as BMP training; How to organize effective Innovation Platforms; The potential role of private sector; and learning from other value chain approaches.

More on the Program’s work in Egypt

Environment and climate change

This session explained how work on environment and climate change is embedded in the country-focused value chains. In Latin America, governments, companies and farmers are interested in reducing environmental impacts and adequate compensatory mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gases and avoiding deforestation respectively. In East Africa, the demand mainly comes from NGOs and to a lesser extent governments who want to align their interventions to global discussions.

Two streams of work were differentiated: 1) Higher level, policy-oriented research relies on rapid modeling techniques that evaluates impacts of technologies (e.g. improved genetics, marketing, feeds and forages) on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water and soil quality, and 2) more resource and time intensive field level, biophysical research to empirically measure GHG and soil carbon accumulation in soil for different natural pastures and improved forages as well as investigation on the ecosystem services that improved forages can provide. Both work streams are interconnected and the quality of the work is improved when feedback from one stream is utilized in the other.

One particular stream was to develop and use tools to ex-ante assess potential impacts of different livestock and fish interventions on the environment.  Tested in several countries, this is intended to guide decisions and investments and give options for different scenarios.

More on the Program’s work on environmental issues

Nicaragua dual-purpose cattle value chains

This session began with a summary of the value chain situation in Nicaragua: Livestock (especially cattle) is a major pillar of the economy, accounting for 36% of agricultural exports (more important than coffee); while demand for livestock products increases, the value chain is deficient and most farmers have poor market access; cattle productivity is (very) low (e.g., 3-4 kg of milk per animal per day); quality of the milk and meat are also low (hygiene) and often do not meet (international) standards; there are significant environmental concerns such as degraded pastures (75%) and high GHG emissions per unit of product; and while women play a crucial, they are not visible and have poor access to resources like land.

The Program’s activities focus on: improved forages (drought adapted, high quality); improved systems (silvo-pastoral) that will generate ecosystem services; mapping livestock genetic potential and developing a strategy to improve the genetic characteristics of cattle; and working through multi-stakeholder platforms, including farmers, research, extension, NGOs, Community based organizations, and trying to include government and private sector.

These should lead to: Increased productivity (by at least 100%); increased income (of farmers and other actors along the value chain) through higher productivity and at longer term ecosystem services; and reduced environmental impact (including GHG emissions) per unit of product through sustainable intensification and increased carbon accumulation (improved systems).

More on the Program’s work in Nicaragua

Transforming the Uganda pig value chain from scratch

This session began from a 2012 starting point that showed a value chain with growing consumer demand for its products and large livelihood-offering potential, but lowly-prioritised by government.

To tackle the issues and grasp opportunities, the Uganda team prioritised partnerships and stakeholder buy-in along the whole process to realise transformation in the value chain. It set up multi-stakeholder platforms to engage actors and raise visibility of the pig sector. This led to much interest in the sector today, with stakeholders gaining recognition and voice. Evidence generated from the value chain approach has also started attracting both public and private sector investments in the sector.

Discussion by session participants explored whether development informs research or vice-versa, ensuring optimal representation of actors and stakeholders in the platforms, experiences with joint policy working groups (government, researchers and donors) share information and prioritise sectors, and the potential of collective breeding centres as an avenue to enhance farmer access to improved breeds.

More on the Program’s work in Uganda

Amos Omore explains the Tanzania approach

Tanzania dairy value chain development

This session introduced the Program’s work with the dairy value chain in Tanzania, zooming in on two multi-stakeholder interventions: Growing ‘hubs’ for pre-commercial dairy producers around small-scale milk traders with interlocked input and output transactions where farmers access inputs or services with their milk delivery as collateral (check-off); and multi-stakeholder innovation platforms at various levels as mechanisms to achieve widespread innovation and inclusive dairy value chain development.

Discussion by session participants focused around concerns about balancing research and development, managing milk quality, clarifying the specific research questions and measuring impacts of the interventions.

More on the Program’s work in Tanzania

Synthesis – Finding the research / development balance

In a concluding synthesis, participants formed a ‘fishbowl’ to capture and share lessons and insights they took away from the session. These are summarized below:

  1. Research and development are different. Active interaction among them is not easy, but is critical. It may be good to pay more attention to research IN development.
  2. The Program’s focus on development interventions is valuable; but we need to avoid losing the science focus. We need to be careful to retain the comparative advantage of research related to other groups and determine the right balance between research and development interventions.
  3. Given the intended impact orientation, it is important to reinforce and motivate researchers to work more towards ‘interventions’ and solutions and be less focused on ‘products’ and outputs.
  4. For scientists however, it is important to manage the multiple roles and demands on them – publishing, capacity development, science, impact delivery, stakeholder interactions, etc. There is a danger that science quality is compromised.
  5. Engaging other actors and partners is challenging. It is important to define the best entry points suited to different nodes in the value chains and the interests and capacities of the different partners. How best to persuade development partners to co-invest and work towards real joint actions? How do we ensure that development actors value what research offers? How do we involve more private sector actors? It is important to manage complexity and the transaction costs involved with all the multiple actors.
  6. Multi-stakeholder engagement and communications is itself a ‘science’, not just a tool. It is important to fully document learning from the innovation processes.