You are browsing the archive for Livestock.

Working with the Root

8:33 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

The following is an eight-part series about Danielle Nierenberg’s visit to the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD) in Ghana. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

Part I: Working with the Root

4435656867_8293920d8d_m.jpgThe Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD), based in Accra, Ghana, is a unique organization. Not only has it brought together members of the Christian and Muslim faith-based communities to help improve the lives of farmers, it also collaborates with farmers groups, NGOs, policy-makers, and research institutions. “We can’t do it on our own,” says King David Amoah, which is why ECASARD works with these different stakeholders.

Established in 1991, ECASARD works with some 32,000 farmers in 7 regions of southern and central Ghana.

Their goal, says King David, is to both increase food production and reduce rural poverty. They do this by promoting innovations that are affordable, environmentally sustainable, socially just and culturally acceptable.

One of the most important things they do, according to King David, is the promotion of pilot projects. “Farmers can’t afford to experiment {with different technologies},” he says, “but ECASARD can fund pilot projects,” allowing farmers the freedom to try new things without taking on all the risk.

Their greatest success, says King David, has been “bringing farmers together to organize themselves” into associations and cooperatives, particularly for women. ECASARD “works with the root. We don’t go to big-time farmers,” according to King David, “we go to the villages.”

In addition, ECASARD helps farmers understand the business of farming by helping them connect to markets. Having a market, says King David, gives farmers the incentive to produce more. ECASARD is also making farming a more attractive option, particularly for youth. “If you take farming seriously,” according to King David, “it can be your livelihood and make you a rich man {or woman}.

Part II: Something that Can’t be Quantified

Check out this video of Nancy Ayesua Outu, ECASARD financial director, explaining why her work to promote agricultural innovations that are affordable, environmentally sustainable, socially just, and culturally acceptable in Ghana is so valuable. “When you have built capacity for farmers and you can see their lives improving, it’s something that you can’t quantify or measure,” she says.



Part III: With ECASARD You Can See A Real Impact

Check out this video of Stephen Amoah, ECASARD programs officer explaining why he enjoys working with ECASARD. Amoah started out as a volunteer but is now a full time employee. He says, “it’s a joy to hear someone say that because of our training they’ve increased their yield.” Amoah knows that by helping farmers form cooperatives and access agriculture training, he is “really helping the family and community to reduce hunger and poverty” for themselves.

Part IV: The Abooman Women’s Group: Working Together to Improve Livelihoods

4435064653_216626c07a_m.jpgThe Abooman Women’s Group in southern Ghana, “started off as a mixed group,” of women and men, says Fatima Addy, the Group’s leader. But today the group consists mainly of women working together to help one another. And says Fatima, “the women’s group performs better than the men’s group” by getting higher incomes from their products, especially in the off season.

The Abooman women have worked with the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD) and Heifer International to learn how to raise and care for dairy cows, make yoghurt, and pasteurize for milk for sale to the local community and for sale to schools. Some of the women also raise bees.

“Change is coming gradually,” says Fatima, “and it takes time to build up where you can safely say you can earn an income.” And while the market for milk products in the community is growing, the women still have some challenges. They talked about the need for a better storage and processing facility and a freezer, as well better storage for the feed for their cows.

Fatima says that they’re “putting all our effort into making the groups sustainable” to not only find ways to improve their production and incomes, but also help them face the “challenges they face from men trying to prove us wrong.” Credit, for example, has been for men, not to women. As the women become better organize, however, they’re becoming more successful farmers and business women.

Part V: The Abooman Women’s Group: We Started Our Own Thing

With support from the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD) and Heifer International, members of the Abooman Women’s Group are raising and caring for dairy cows to make yogurt and pasteurized milk for sale to the local community and schools. Some of the women are also raising bees. Check out this video of the group and hear its leader, Fatima Addy, explain why it was important to have a group that consists mainly of women working together to help one another.


Part VI: Making a Living Out of Conservation

4436456172_6e446d595c_m.jpgThe farmers of the Neleshi Grasscutter and Farmers Association (NAGRAFA) consider themselves not only farmers and businesswomen and men, but also conservationists. Grasscutters, or cane rats, are found throughout Western Africa and, as their name suggests, they live in grasslands. But many poor farmers in Ghana use slash and burn methods on grasslands to provide short term nutrients to the soil, as well as to drive out grasscutters and sell their meat, which is considered a delicacy. To help preserve the grasslands and help other farmers increase their incomes, NAGRAFA offers free trainings to farmers and youth about how to raise, slaughter, and process grasscuttter and rabbit meat.

The group is made up of about 40 active members—both men and women—who have been working together to find better ways to raise grasscutters and rabbits on a small-scale. Their biggest challenges, says Farmer Brown (which is the only name he gave us), the leader of the group is finding inexpensive ways of housing and feeding their animals, finding better packaging for their products, and publicizing the health and nutritional qualities of their products.

NAGRAFA is also reaching out to youth to engage them in farming. Because the rabbits and grasscutters are cute, it’s easy to get children and teenagers interested in them, according to Ekow Martin, one of the members of NAGRAFA. He’s training 5 to 6 youth in his community about how to raise the animals—and earn money from the sale of the meat. And, Mary Edjah, another NASGRAFA farmer says that “we need more hands” to help raise rabbits and grasscutters. She and other members of the group are helping train 6 orphans about how to raise and care for the animals.

Ms. Edjah also says that raising grasscutters and rabbits helps “bring the family together” and “keeps the children at home.” Raising these animals, says Mr. Martin, “changes everything.” The family is happy, he says, because they’re able to supplement their income, as well as improve the family’s nutrition.

And like other livestock such as cattle and goats, grasscutters and rabbits are like walking credit cards, giving families the opportunity to sell them to pay for school fees or medicine, or eat them. Ms. Edjah says “that in times of need, women know they can slaughter the rabbits.”

For more about NAGRAFA, check out the videos below.

Part VII: New Frontier Farmers and Processor Group: Reviving Farmland and Improving Livelihoods

4445074567_f77a6f6887_m.jpgIn Anamaase, Ghana, the New Frontier Farmers and Processor group is led by the village’s chief. Osbararima Mana Tibi II is a self described “young leader (he’s 50 years old) with a love for the environment.” He took it upon himself when he became chief, he says, to help revive farmland and improve the lives of the farmers in his village of about 5,000 people. And the chief is also helping farmers become more business-oriented. “We’re always thinking about how to process the crops we’re growing,” he says. According to him, farmers don’t have a lot of bargaining power in most villages in Ghana, but “processing gives them more leverage.”

One of the groups’ biggest accomplishments since it began in 1992, according to Chief Mana Tibi, is organizing palm oil processing groups. Typically, farmers collect palm oil fruits and sell them to a processor, instead of processing and extracting the oil—and having the opportunity to make additional income— themselves.

But by “coming together,” says the Chief, and building three palm oil processing centers, farmers are able to boil, ferment, and press the palm fruits themselves, allowing them to make a better profit. The processing plants, or “service centers,” which are run mainly by women, also help save time and labor because the community is working together to process and then package the oil. And because the three facilities aren’t enough to “fill the need” they’re working on building three or four additional processing plants.

4435680273_53731c9648_m.jpgThe group is also involved in helping restore watersheds and barren land through agroforestry. They’ve started growing nitrogen-fixing trees, including Lucina to help restore soils, as well other trees, such as the so-called “green gold of Ghana,” moringa. When they’re processed into powder, the leaves of the moringa tree are very high in protein and can be manufactured into formula for malnourished children. And because the processing of moringa into powder “generates a lot of trash,” says Chief Tibi, the stalks and other leftover parts of the plant can be used as fodder for animals. New Frontier is also providing moringa seedlings to a group of 40 people living with HIV/AIDS, who not only use moringa as a nutritional supplement, but are also growing moringa to earn income.

The group is doing some of its own community-based research by testing the effect moringa has on livestock. According to their research, feeding sheep moringa leaves has reduced fat in the meat dramatically, “making it taste more like bushmeat,” and it lasts longer when it is preserved than regular mutton. They’ve also found that goats who eat moringa are healthier.

In addition, the Chief is hoping that the business opportunities provided by moringa and other crops, will help make agriculture and agribusiness more attractive to youth and prevent their “drift” to the cities. He’s created a Amanmae Fe, or home of tradition, a place in the community that uses dancing and music “to bait the youth,” says the Chief. By bringing them together, he hopes the youth will learn more about their traditions and the ways of growing food that were in Ghana before Western interventions, as well as more modern practices that can help increase production and improve their livelihoods.


Part VIII: Tapping Local Ingenuity to Raise Fish and Livestock

4435667919_52f60dfe8d_m.jpgFishers and livestock keepers in Ghana face numerous challenges. For fishers, a good harvest can mean abundant fish but low prices. And the country’s small-scale chicken farmers often lose their flocks to disease. But in Cape Coast, the capital of the Central Region, two farmers’ groups are helping members find innovative ways to add value to their products and improve the health of both their animals and their communities.

The 58 women who make up Ghana’s Central and Western Fishmongers Improvement Association (CEWEFIA) had a problem of supply and demand. When the hare and red fish came into season during the summer months, there was too much of the seafood available on the market to make a profit. Then, later in the year, when the fish weren’t as abundant, the women didn’t have anything to sell in the community. To solve this dilemma, the group came together to learn how to smoke and process fish, as well as process palm oil. The women are “self-taught,” making their own drying racks and much of the other equipment, according to Paulina Eshun, one of CEWEFIA’s leaders. The members share the cost of the materials—including special firewood used for smoking and the packaging for their products—as well as the profit they get from selling dried fish, fish powder, and palm oil.

For another local farmer, Emmanuel Ankai-Taylor, keeping his chickens healthy was the main motivation to take action. According to him, most of the people in his community no longer keep native chickens, but instead raise introduced breeds that are supposed to gain weight more quickly. Unfortunately, these exotic breeds tend to get sick easily and need expensive medicines to help keep them healthy. Mr. Ankai-Taylor found that adding popopoo, an indigenous herb, to the chickens’ feed helped keep the birds healthy. He also found that sick chickens that were treated with the herb would get better more quickly. To help spread this knowledge about using medicinal plants for livestock management and other sustainable agricultural practices, Mr. Ankai-Taylor founded the Center for Indigenous Agriculture and Rural Development so farmers could learn from one other.

New Frontier Farmers and Processor Group: Reviving Farmland and Improving Livelihoods

2:04 pm in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4445074567_f77a6f6887_m.jpgIn Anamaase, Ghana, the New Frontier Farmers and Processor group is led by the village’s chief. Osbararima Mana Tibi II is a self described “young leader (he’s 50 years old) with a love for the environment.” He took it upon himself when he became chief, he says, to help revive farmland and improve the lives of the farmers in his village of about 5,000 people. And the chief is also helping farmers become more business-oriented. “We’re always thinking about how to process the crops we’re growing,” he says. According to him, farmers don’t have a lot of bargaining power in most villages in Ghana, but “processing gives them more leverage.

One of the groups’ biggest accomplishments since it began in 1992, according to Chief Mana Tibi, is organizing palm oil processing groups. Typically, farmers collect palm oil fruits and sell them to a processor, instead of processing and extracting the oil—and having the opportunity to make additional income— themselves.

But by “coming together,” says the Chief, and building three palm oil processing centers, farmers are able to boil, ferment, and press the palm fruits themselves, allowing them to make a better profit. The processing plants, or “service centers,” which are run mainly by women, also help save time and labor because the community is working together to process and then package the oil. And because the three facilities aren’t enough to “fill the need” they’re working on building three or four additional processing plants.

The group is also involved in helping restore watersheds and barren land through agroforestry. They’ve started growing nitrogen-fixing trees, including Lucina to help restore soils, as well other trees, such as the so-called “green gold of Ghana,” moringa. When they’re processed into powder, the leaves of the moringa tree are very high in protein and can be manufactured into formula for malnourished children. And because the processing of moringa into powder “generates a lot of trash,” says Chief Tibi, the stalks and other leftover parts of the plant can be used as fodder for animals. New Frontier is also providing moringa seedlings to a group of 40 people living with HIV/AIDS, who not only use moringa as a nutritional supplement, but are also growing moringa to earn income.

4435680273_53731c9648_m.jpgThe group is doing some of its own community-based research by testing the effect moringa has on livestock. According to their research, feeding sheep moringa leaves has reduced fat in the meat dramatically, “making it taste more like bushmeat,” and it lasts longer when it is preserved than regular mutton. They’ve also found that goats who eat moringa are healthier.

In addition, the Chief is hoping that the business opportunities provided by moringa and other crops, will help make agriculture and agribusiness more attractive to youth and prevent their “drift” to the cities. He’s created a Amanmae Fe, or home of tradition, a place in the community that uses dancing and music “to bait the youth,” says the Chief. By bringing them together, he hopes the youth will learn more about their traditions and the ways of growing food that were in Ghana before Western interventions, as well as more modern practices that can help increase production and improve their livelihoods.

Please don’t forget to check out our other posts about ECASARD’s work in Ghana: Part 1: Working with the Root; Part 2: Something that Can’t be Qualified; Part 3: With ECASARD You Can See A Real Impact; Part 4: The Abooman Women’s Group: Working Together to Improve Livelihoods; Part 5: The Abooman Women’s Group: We Started Our Own Thing; and Part 6: Making a Living Out of Conservation.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

The Abooman Women’s Group: Working Together to Improve Livelihoods

7:28 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

This is the fourth in a five-part series of my visit with the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development and the projects they support in southern Ghana.Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4435064653_216626c07a_m.jpg

The Abooman Women’s Group in southern Ghana, “started off as a mixed group,” of women and men, says Fatima Addy, the Group’s leader. But today the group consists mainly of women working together to help one another. And says Fatima, “the women’s group performs better than the men’s group” by getting higher incomes from their products, especially in the off season.

The Abooman women have worked with the Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (ECASARD) and Heifer International to learn how to raise and care for dairy cows, make yoghurt, and pasteurize for milk for sale to the local community and for sale to schools. Some of the women also raise bees.

“Change is coming gradually,” says Fatima, “and it takes time to build up where you can safely say you can earn an income.” And while the market for milk products in the community is growing, the women still have some challenges. They talked about the need for a better storage and processing facility and a freezer, as well better storage for the feed for their cows.

Fatima says that they’re “putting all our effort into making the groups sustainable” to not only find ways to improve their production and incomes, but also help them face the “challenges they face from men trying to prove us wrong.” Credit, for example, has been for men, not to women. As the women become better organize, however, they’re becoming more successful farmers and business women.

Stay tuned for more about ECASARD’s work with grasscutter and rabbit farmers.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Using Livestock to Rebuild and Preserve Communities

9:27 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet blog.

4645208710_1a02b4b5db_m.jpgFor pastoralist communities like the well-known Maasai in Kenya, livestock keeping is more than just an important source of food and income; it’s a way of life that has been a part of their culture and traditions for hundreds of years.

But, in the face of drought, loss of traditional grazing grounds, and pressure from governments and agribusiness to cross-breed native cattle breeds with exotic breeds, pastoralists are struggling to feed their families and hold on to their culture.

The key, however, to maintaining the pastoralist way of life, at least in Kenya, may also be the key to preserving the country’s livestock genetic biodiversity, as well as improving local food security.“Governments need to recognize,” says Jacob Wanyama, coordinator with the African LIFE Network in Kenya— an organization that works to improve the rights of pastoralist communities in Eastern Africa, “that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.” (See also: The Keepers of Genetic Diversity)

Anikole cattle, for example, a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa, are not only “beautiful to look at,” says Wanyama, but they’re one of the “highest quality” breeds of cattle because they can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—something that’s more important than the size and milk production of the cattle, especially as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa. And indigenous breeds don’t require expensive feed and inputs, such as antibiotics to keep them healthy.

More than just a consistent and reliable source of food, Anikole cattle also help preserve the pastoralist culture and way of life. Though most pastoralists recognize that many of their children might choose to go into the cities instead of continuing the nomadic herding lifestyle of pastoralists, the preservation of Anikole cattle and other indigenous breeds will allow those that choose to stay to feed and support their families and community for years to come. (See also: Maintaining Links to Tradition in a Changing World)

And, similarly, in Mozambique, the International Rural Poultry Center of the Kyeema Foundation and International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics are promoting livestock as more than just a means to improve food security.

The two organizations are partnering to work with farmers—most of them women—to raise chickens on their farms. Because women are often the primary caregivers for family members with HIV/AIDS, they need easy, low-cost sources of both food and income. Unlike many crops, raising free-range birds can require few outside inputs and very little maintenance from farmers. Birds can forage for insects and eat kitchen scraps, instead of expensive grains. They provide not only meat and eggs for household use and income, but also pest control and manure for fertilizer. (See also: Prescribing Improved Nutrition to Combat HIV/AIDS in Africa)

In Rwanda, Heifer International is helping farmers use livestock to rebuild their homes and improve their income after the devastating genocide that occurred 15 years ago. Heifer began working in Rwanda in 2000, introducing a South African dairy breed, known for its high milk production, because, according to Dr. Karamuzi, “no stock of good [dairy cow] genes” was left in the country after the genocide.

And he says that these animals help prove “that even poor farmers can take care of high producing cows.” Heifer has certain conditions for receiving cows—including that farmers build a pen and dedicate part of their land to growing pasture—which made people skeptical, especially when they were used to letting animals roam freely to graze on grass. But as people began seeing the results of Heifer’s training, they become less suspicious and more interested in working with the group.

And these animals don’t only provide milk—which can be an important source of protein for the hungry—and income to families. They also provide manure, which provides not only fertilizer for crops, but also is now helping provide biogas for cooking to households raising cows in the country as part of a the National Biogas Program. And they give families a sense of security as they, and the entire country, continue to recover and rebuild. (See also: Healing With Livestock in Rwanda)

To read more about how smallscale livestock can improve food security and preserve and rebuild communities, see: Teacher Turned Farmer. . .Turned Teacher, Got Biogas?, Conserving Endangered Animal Genetic Resources in Kenya.

Photo Credit: International Livestock Research Institute

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

1,000 Words About Kenya

8:33 am in Foreign Policy, International Aid and Development by borderjumpers

Our entry begins in Maralal, Kenya, a place mostly known for its wildlife. And as we made the seven hour, bumpy trek from Nairobi—half of it on unpaved roads—we saw our fair share of water buffaloes, rhinos, impala, and giraffes. But we weren’t here to go on safari. We were here to meet with a group of pastoralists—livestock keepers who had agreed to meet with us and talk about the challenges they face.

Although most of these people don’t have access to cable TV or even radios, they do have a good sense of the challenges their fellow livestock keepers face all over Kenya. They are aware that climate change is likely responsible for the drought plaguing much of East Africa, killing thousands of livestock over the last few months. They know that conflict with neighboring pastoral communities over water resources and access to land makes headlines in Kenya’s newspapers. And they know that many policy-makers would like to forget they exist and consider their nomadic lifestyle barbaric, as our guide Dr. Pat Lanyasunya, a member of theAfrica LIFE Network, explained.

What surprised me most about these livestock keepers is their understanding that the world is changing. They know that many of their children won’t live the same kind of lives that their ancestors lived for centuries. Many will choose to go to the cities, but they said if their children become “landed,” they want them to maintain links to the pastoralist way of life.

Speaking of the ‘big” city, Nairobi, we had some unforgettable site visits there. Driving through the crowded streets of Kibera, (an urban slum in Nairobi), it’s nearly impossible to describe how many people live in this area of about 225 hectares, the equivalent of just over half the size of Central Park in Manhattan. Anywhere from 700,000 to a million people live in what is likely the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa–it’s hard to count the exact number here because people don’t own the land where they live and work, making their existence a very tenuous one. Often people are evicted from their homes (most of them wooden shacks with tin roves) because the city government doesn’t want to recognize that Kibera exists. But it does. And despite the challenges people here face-lack of water and sanitation services and lack of land ownership are the big ones-they are also thriving.

We met a "self help" group of women farmers in Kibera, who are growing food for their families and selling the surplus. These groups are present all over Kenya-giving youth, women, and other groups the opportunity to organize, share information and skills, and ultimately improve their well-being.

The women we met are raising vegetables on what they call "vertical farms." But instead of skyscrapers, these farms are in tall sacks, filled with dirt, and the women grow crops in them on different levels by poking holes in the bags and planting seeds. They received training, seeds, and sacks from the French NGO Soladarites to start their sack gardens.

The women told us that more than 1,000 of their neighbors are growing food in a similar way-something that Red Cross International recognized during 2007 and 2008 when there was conflict in the slums of Nairobi. No food could come into these areas, but most residents didn’t go without food because so many of them were growing crops-in sacks, vacant land, or elsewhere.

These small gardens can yield big benefits in terms of nutrition, food security, and income. All the women told us that they saved money because they no longer had to buy vegetables at the store and they claimed they taste better because they were organically grown-but it also might come from the pride that comes from growing something themselves.

When we got to the union office in Kerecho, Kenya, union officials were elated to see the staff of the Solidarity Center. Over the last couple of months, more than 6,000 tea workers joined the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU). To help them win more members-and continue to grow-the Solidarity Center provides resources to hire organizers, conduct trainings, and offer communications and transportation support, according to KPAWU branch secretary Joshua Owuor Maywen.

The union, despite having more than 200,000 members in the agriculture sector and representing some of the most vulnerable workers, has still lost density over the last two decades. During this time, companies are trying whatever they can to cut costs, including implementing child labor, mechanizing the plucking industry–according to one of the workers: "the machines pluck everything including snakes and spiders, while the tea pluckers pluck tea"-and hiring casuals or "temporary" workers at lower wages and reduced benefits.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

A Conversation with Jacob Wanyama from the African LIFE Network

10:25 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

4526301400_15887c798e_m.jpgName: Jacob Wanyama

Affiliation: African LIFE Network

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Bio: Jacob Wanyama is a coordinator with the African LIFE Network in Kenya, an organization that works to increase rights for pastoralist communities. He has been working for pastoralist peoples for nearly two decades with organizations such as Practical Action (formerly ITDG) and Veternaires Sans Frontiers (VSF).

What is the nature of the problem that you and the LIFE Network are dealing with in pastoralist communities? Pastoralists mostly depend on producing livestock. These communities have produced certain breeds for centuries. These animals are suited to the environment and they are critical to the cultural and economic survival of the pastoralists in these harsh environments. But because of conflict, drought, and other environmental problems in the area, it is becoming harder for pastoralists to maintain their way of life. There is a lack of services and infrastructure in these communities. They are very low on the opportunity ladder, and in Kenya especially the pastoralist communities don’t get government services or support.

Another problem is that government programs in these areas have often discouraged or destroyed what communities have been doing. Because of the need to produce food quickly, many governments have promoted replacing indigenous breeds that are considered to be inferior because they don’t produce a lot of meat. The government has encouraged pastoralists to breed local breeds with exotic breeds or to just replace the local breed. The problem is that the new breed is not used to the region. This has gone on for many years, so now many indigenous breeds are disappearing. The world is losing roughly one livestock breed every week.

This is the case in many areas where livestock are kept. In Africa, India, Mongolia, pastoralists are not given a chance to maintain their breeds of indigenous livestock, and therefore the world is losing many sources of animal genetic diversity. These animals are the only way of using these very dry and harsh areas, which otherwise could not support communities. So, many pastoralists are giving up their way of life. They can’t feed their families anymore.

What are some of the grassroots strategies the LIFE Network has used to help these communities? We try to create awareness among pastoralists. They have been getting misinformation and discouragement from the government. So we spend time with them and tell them, “what you have and what you had is very valuable. You are providing an important service not just to yourself but to the world. You have the right to demand recognition.” We also tell them that they should base decisions about what types of livestock they breed on knowledge. We need to strengthen these communities and give them the tools to make their own decisions. We also assist pastoralists in documenting what they have and then we work with lawyers to formulate statements that demand government development in their communities.

How do you attract national or international attention to these issues? We try to raise this issue with different governments. We’ve been able to speak to the governments of Kenya, Botswana, and Uganda. These governments, though, don’t seem to understand the unique position of the pastoralists and where they need to be. Some countries have moved a step forward, though. Kenya, Uganda, and India have developed institutions and ministries that are mandated to address pastoralists. But that has not meant that things have changed in terms of food and conservation. These governments are still focused on settled people. In Tanzania, the situation is even worse. The Tanzanian government says that it is difficult to provide services to pastoralists, since they move around so much, and encourages pastoralists to settle. But, if you settle them and reduce the number of livestock they have, you have a situation in which pastoralists have nothing to do. A lot of them end up destitute.

But we look for ways to ensure that people’s rights are assured. We want to facilitate the market for livestock keepers and figure out how to document their breeds as a way of making the governments pay attention. One of the things communities need to do is set up their rules and demands to their countries and the international community. They need to say what action they think is appropriate for these communities to be respected.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Livestock Keepers’ Rights: Conserving Endangered Animal Genetic Resources in Kenya

7:05 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Co-written with Dr. Jacob Wanyama and originally featured in the Mail & Guardian. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4097868821_98bf3f5517_m.jpgMaralal, Kenya, is mostly known for its wildlife. And as we made the seven hour, bumpy trek from Nairobi — half of it on unpaved roads — we saw our fair share of water buffaloes, rhinos, impala, and giraffes. But we weren’t here to go on safari. We were here to meet with a group of pastoralists — livestock keepers who had agreed to meet with us and talk about the challenges they face.

We met in the community primary school and it was humbling to see so many people — many wearing traditional Maasai clothing, brightly woven clothe, beads, elaborate earrings — come through the door to greet us.

Over the years, pastoralists like the well-known Maasai here in Kenya have been pushed out of their traditional grazing lands to drier and drier regions, places where it was easy to ignore them. But as the effects of climate change, hunger, drought and the loss of biodiversity become more evident, it’s increasingly hard to push livestock keepers’ rights aside. Governments need to recognize that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.

Anikole cattle, for example, a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa, are not only beautiful to look at but they’re one of the “highest quality” breeds of cattle because they can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions — something that’s more important than ever as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa.

Although most of the people we met don’t have access to cable TV or even radios, they do have a good sense of the challenges their fellow livestock keepers face all over Kenya. They are aware that climate change is likely responsible for the drought plaguing much of East Africa, killing thousands of livestock over the last few months. They know that conflict with neighbouring pastoral communities over water resources and access to land makes headlines in Kenya’s newspapers. And they know that many policy-makers would like to forget they exist, considering their nomadic lifestyle barbaric, as our guide Dr Pat Lanyasunya, a member of the Africa LIFE Network, explained.

Unfortunately, governments and agribusiness don’t share the same viewpoint. They’re increasingly promoting cross-breeding of native breed with exotic breeds — breeds that were designed to gain more weight and produce more milk. The problem is, however, that these newer breeds have a hard time adapting to sub-Saharan Africa’s dry conditions, as well as the pests and diseases present here. As a result, pastoralists who adopt these breeds have to spend more on feed and inputs, like pesticides and antibiotics to keep cattle healthy.

One of the most serious problems we heard about was the effects that replacing indigenous breeds of livestock with mixed breeds of more exotic cattle have had during the drought. These livestock keepers began replacing their indigenous Zebu cattle with mixed breeds about 15 years ago after missionaries introduced them to the community. While the new breeds were bigger and could potentially produce more meat or milk, they aren’t as hardy as native cattle that can travel long distances without much water.
According to one of the community elders, the “old breeds could go 40km [for food and water] and come back,” but the new breeds can’t tolerate the distance or the heat. In the past, water sources could be much farther away and the cattle could thrive, but now they need to be much closer.

That’s one reason different pastoralist communities sometimes clash — when cattle can’t travel far for water, livestock keepers have to find it elsewhere, often at sites that are traditionally used by different communities. A man wearing a Harley-Davidson hat along with his Maasai shawl acknowledged that although they fight with other communities over resources, “they’re just like us”, trying to survive with very little support from the government or NGOs. The conflict has not only effected the raising of livestock, but also forced schools to close and created more internally displaced people as they are driven off the land.

What surprised us most about these livestock keepers is their understanding that the world is changing. They know that many of their children won’t live the same kind of lives that their ancestors lived for centuries. Many will choose to go to the cities, but they said if their children become “landed”, they want them to maintain links to the pastoralist way of life. And they said that for some of them, livestock is what they do best and what they have a passion for — and that they should be allowed to continue doing it.

Dr Jacob Wanyama is a veterinarian and coordinator for the Africa LIFE Network.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Protecting Wildlife While Improving Food Security, Health, and Livelihoods

8:36 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

This is the first in a two-part series about Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg’s visit with COMACO in Zambia. Cross posted from Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

4365708645_7cb9a0c850_m.jpgOne of the first things you notice about grocery stores in Zambia is the plethora of processed foods from around the world, from crackers made in Argentina and soy milk from China to popular U.S. breakfast cereals. Complementing these foreign foods, however, are a variety of locally made and processed products, including indigenous varieties of organic rice, all-natural peanut butter, and honey from the It’s Wild brand.

It’s Wild was started by the Community Markets for Conservation(COMACO), an organization founded over 30 years ago to conserve local wildlife. COMACO helps farmers improve their agricultural practices in ways that can protect the environment—such as through conservation farming—while also creating a reliable market for farm products. It organizes the farmers into producer groups, encouraging them to diversify their skills by raising livestock and bees, growing organic rice, using improved irrigation and fisheries management, and other practices, so that they don’t have to resort to poaching elephants or other wildlife.

By targeting hard-to-reach farmers that live near protected areas, “we’re trying to turn things around,” says Dale Lewis, Executive Director of COMACO. For decades, many farmers in eastern Zambia practiced slash-and-burn agriculture and were involved in widespread elephant poaching. Farmers killed elephants and burned forests not because they were greedy, but because it was their only alternative, Lewis explains. Degraded soils, the lack of effective agricultural inputs, and drought left many farmers in the region desperate, forcing them to turn to poaching and environmentally destructive farming practices.

By training more than 650 “lead” farmers to train other farmers, COMACO hopes to not only protect the environment and local wildlife, but also help farmers increase their incomes by connecting them to the private market.

COMACO supports the creation of regional processing centers and trading depots to make it easier for farmers to process their crops and transport them to market. The group also offers a higher price to farmers who grow rice and other products organically, and for those use the conservation farming techniques they’ve learned from COMACO trainers and lead farmers. Where farmers “comply with COMACO, they see benefits,” Lewis says, including improvements in food security and health.

The resulting products are then sold under the It’s Wild brand in major supermarket chains across Zambia, such as ShopRite, Checkers, and Spar. Next year, COMACO plans to export its products to Botswana. The organization is trying to do as much of the product distribution as possible so that the money stays with the farmers and not middlemen.

COMACO has also gotten technical support from multinational food giant General Mills. The company paid for a COMACO food technician to visit its headquarters in early 2009 to learn how different food processing techniques can increase the nutritional and economic value of the foods that the organization is selling.

Lewis hopes that eventually COMACO will be self sufficient—and profitable—without the current heavy dependence on donor funding. But that’s not easy for an organization that works with thousands of farmers and has high administrative, transport, and salary costs.

Stay tuned this week for more about Dale Lewis and COMACO’s work.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts-we check comments everyday and look forward to a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Consider donating–For a limited time only when you donate $36 dollars (tax deductible) to support the Worldwatch Institute to support our, we will mail you a signed copy of our flagship publication "State of the World 2011" when it comes out in January. To make sure you receive your copy of the book just be sure to enter the code “NTP2011” when you make your donation.
3. Receive weekly updates-Sign up for our "Nourishing the Planet" weekly newsletter at the blog by clicking here and receive regular blog and travel updates.

Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Board: David Spielman

11:25 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

“Meet the Nourishing the Planet Advisory Group” is a regular series where we profile advisors of the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we’re featuring David Spielman, who is a Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Name: David Spielman

Affiliation: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Location: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Bio: David Spielman is a Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. His research agenda covers a range of topics including agricultural science, technology, and innovation policy; seed systems and agricultural input markets; and community-driven rural development. Prior to this, David worked in agriculture and rural development for the World Bank (Washington, D.C.), the Aga Khan Development Network (Pakistan), and several other organizations. His regional emphasis is on East Africa and South Asia. Spielman received a Ph.D. in Economics from American University in 2003, an M.Sc. in Development Studies from the London School of Economics in 1993, and a B.A. in International Relations from Tufts University in 1992.

Recent Publications:
• David J. Spielman et al., “Policies to promote cereal intensification in Ethiopia: A review of evidence and experience,” Food Policy, vol. 35 (2010), in press;
• Anwar Naseem; David J. Spielman, and Steven Were Omamo, “Private-sector investment in R&D: A review of policy options to promote its growth in developing-country agriculture,” Agribusiness, vol. 26, no. 1 (2010), pp. 143–73;
• David J. Spielman, Javier Ekboir, and Kristin Davis, “The art and science of innovation systems inquiry: Applications to Sub-Saharan African agriculture,” Technology in Society, vol. 31, no. 4 (2009), pp. 399–405;
• David J. Spielman and Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development (Washington, DC: IFPRI, 2009).

On Nourishing the Planet: “Nourishing the planet” means investing in growth, development, and the improvement of human livelihoods in new and more sustainable ways than what we have done in the past. This means encouraging greater innovation in how we produce food, manage our natural resources, steward our environment, and assist those least able to benefit from innovation.

What is the relationship between agriculture, the environment, and global hunger and poverty? Agriculture is a fundamental source of both sustenance and income for many of the world’s poor, whether directly or indirectly. Their long-term ability to earn a living from agriculture depends acutely on how we manage the environment that provides agriculture with its essential inputs—soil, nutrients, water, light, and so many other elements. With the world waking up to climate change, there is more recognition that agriculture and the environment are inextricably linked, and thus that our lives and livelihoods are similarly linked.

What is the role you see small-scale farmers playing in the eradication of global poverty and hunger? There are skeptics who argue that small-scale farming is not a viable livelihood option in developing countries, and that the consolidation of land holdings and the expansion of capital-intensive farming will eventually push small farmers out. Yet there is ample empirical evidence indicating that small farmers—particularly small farmers who are able to innovate, commercialize, and compete in the marketplace—have some real advantages over more corporate-style agriculture. But realistically, creating a new generation of competitive and dynamic farmers will take more investment in rural education and health services, market institutions and infrastructure, and science in the interest of the smallholder. The new generations of small farmers should not be bound to the drudgery and uncertainty of agricultural life; rather, they should be sharp, savvy farmers endowed with the skills and education needed to compete successfully.

When you met with Nourishing the Planet co-director Danielle Nierenberg in the fall of last year, you said that “farmers are now faced with decisions that it would take a Ph.D to solve,” but that there are enormous opportunities for creative innovations that can help lift farmers’ incomes, protect the environment, and increase food security. Can you provide examples of what you mean? Policymakers, administrators, and development practitioners seem to expect that farmers will readily respond to their concerns about sluggish agricultural productivity growth, rising food prices, poor household nutrition, climate change, and a host of other complex challenges. But the solutions on offer—a new cultivation practice here, a new market niche there—are not always an obvious opportunity for every farmer. The ability of a farmer to seize an opportunity—to cultivate her crops in a new way, or to sell her farm surplus in a new market—depends acutely on her sense of household security now and in the future, her perceptions of risk, and her level of education and degree of experience.

My favorite “innovation” example is conservation agriculture which, loosely defined, is a set of cultivation practices designed to improve soil fertility and water retention that depend on the adoption of closely related farming techniques—residue retention, minimum tillage, land leveling, strategic crop rotation, improved or specialized varieties, etc. The idea is to conserve the natural resource base of agricultural production while also improving yields or lowering costs for the farmer. There are a range of crop-specific technologies designed to make these approaches work (direct seeded rice, zero tillage wheat, etc.), but they are pretty complicated. I have seen it practiced in Zambia, India, and several other countries, and I take my hat off to these farmers. It doesn’t look that easy.

I’m not much of a farmer myself, but if you gave me a half hectare of land and asked me to try some of these techniques out, I would fail miserably. And even if I got the techniques right—preparing the land correctly, planting seed, managing the irrigation, and harvesting at the right time—who knows what would happen when I tried to sell my output in the market. Being a good farmer, a good agronomist, and a good businessperson all at the same time is challenging. That’s why I focus on the need for greater investment in agricultural science, rural education, and rural infrastructure, so that tomorrow’s farmers are better equipped with the skills and education needed to experiment, adapt, and ultimately, compete.

What sorts of innovations, policies, etc. would you like to see implemented to reduce global poverty and hunger? Reducing global poverty and hunger hinge on several key policies and investments. First, continued and accelerated investment in science and technology is critical. This means not only “high” science like genomics and crop genetic improvement, but also the more “day to day” science of soil fertility and water management, as well as the managerial and organizational aspects of how we actually do science.

Second, greater investment in the hardware and software of innovation are also needed. This means physical infrastructure like roads and power; market infrastructure like price information systems and laws to effectively settle commercial disputes; rural education and health services; and many other areas that are often lacking in the lives of small farmers and rural entrepreneurs.

Third, investment in communities is essential because collective action can often contribute dramatically to social and economic change. There is much to be gained from encouraging communities to identify their own development priorities, marshal their own resources to effect change, and act as independent but constructive partners to both state and non-state actors.

Can you describe the Millions Fed project and your involvement? “Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development” is a project that examines “what works” in agricultural development—what types of programs, policies, and investments have had a proven impact on hunger and food security. The project looks at 20 proven successes in Africa, Asia, and Latin America during the last 50 years that have played an important role in reducing the proportion of people suffering from malnutrition from about one-third to one-sixth of the world’s population. The project, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, was undertaken by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in 2008–09.

Our flagship output from this project is a book by the same title. The book—along with the website, video, booklets, technical papers, and seminar presentations—has helped inform the debate on the future of the global food and agriculture system by focusing attention on large-scale successes that have had a demonstrated impact on hunger and food security, and on the importance of accumulating real evidence on where, why, and how interventions succeeded.

Can you discuss the relationship—if you think there is one—between food consumers in the United States and global hunger? Increasingly, consumers in both industrialized and developing countries are driving the choices that farmers in developing countries make. About 30 years ago, this was not necessarily the case, as policymakers with food self-sufficiency targets, local administrators with subsidized inputs, or scientists with new plant varieties held sway. Of course, this shift to a more consumer-driven global system offers many opportunities. Think about the small farmer in Tanzania who is able to make good money producing organic green beans for export to Europe, or the small farmer in India who is enjoying high returns on his mango and grape exports to the Middle East.

But I often wonder whether there is a need for us to cautiously interpret the gains associated with the expansion of this global system. The natural skeptic in me would ask whether we are simply replacing cacao, tea, rubber, and other colonial cash crops with pesticide-free strawberries, shade-grown coffee, or organic broccoli for wealthy consumers in industrialized countries. The economist in me would ask whether poverty reduction and global hunger can be effectively reduced by these products (and interventions to promote these products), or whether there are better uses of our scarce resources.

In some countries such as Ethiopia, research shows that greater poverty reduction can be achieved by investing in the improvement of food staple and livestock productivity. Although this doesn’t preclude investment in high-value export crops, it should be a warning message to policymakers and development practitioners who are overly enamored with the idea that quaint fruits, organic vegetables, or pretty flowers will end poverty.

Why should food consumers in the United States care about the state of agriculture in other countries? During my undergraduate studies, I had an international relations professor who published extensively on the theory of deterrence and mutually assured destruction—key principals during the Cold War. But recognizing that the Berlin Wall was falling at the same time as he was lecturing, he talked a bit about interdependence—the idea that the security of all countries would depend not on rival military might, but on the depth of their economic and social relationships. I think we are moving closer and closer to a tightly interdependent world. This means that food consumers in the United States need to care more about the state of the world because their choices at the supermarket, in the kitchen, and in the voting booth affect the livelihoods of millions beyond their borders.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoy our diary every day we invite you to get involved:
1. Comment on our daily posts — we check for comments everyday and want to have a regular ongoing discussion with you.
2. Receive regular updates–Join the weekly BorderJumpers newsletter by clicking here.
3. Help keep our research going—-If you know of any great projects or contacts in West Africa please connect us connect us by emailing, commenting or sending us a message on facebook.

Valuing What They Already Have

8:54 am in Uncategorized by borderjumpers

Richard Haigh doesn’t look like your typical African pastoralist. Unlike many Africans who grew up tending cattle, sheep, goats, and other livestock, Richard started his farm in 2007 at the age of 40. He quit his 9–5 job at a nongovernmental organization and bought 23 acres of land outside Durban, South Africa.

He wanted to totally change his life.

4315633110_6180160aec_m.jpgToday, he runs Enaleni Farm (enaleni means “abundance” in Zulu), raising endangered Zulu sheep, Nguni cattle (a breed indigenous to South Africa that is very resistant to pests), and a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Richard is cultivating GMO-free soya, as well as traditional maize varieties. “All the maize tells a story,” he says. Like the sheep and cattle, many maize varieties are resistant to drought, climate change, and diseases, making them a smart choice for farmers all over Africa.

This sort of mixed-crop livestock system is becoming increasingly rare in South Africa, according to Richard, because of commercial farms that rely on monoculture crops rather than on diverse agricultural systems.

Richard likes to say that his farm isn’t organic, but rather an example of how agro-ecological methods can work. He practices push-pull agriculture, which uses alternating intercropping of plants that repel pests (pushing them away from the harvest) and ones that attract pests (pulling them away from the harvest) to increase yields. He also uses animal manure and compost for fertilizer.

But perhaps the most important thing Richard is doing at Enaleni doesn’t have to do with the various agricultural methods and practices he’s using. It’s about the “stories” he’s telling on the farm. By showing local people the tremendous benefits that indigenous cattle and sheep breeds, and sustainably grown crops, can have for the environment and livelihoods, he’s putting both an ecological and economic value on something that’s been neglected. “Local people don’t value what they have,” says Richard, because extension agents have tended to promote exotic livestock and expensive inputs.

In addition, Richard asks himself “what can we do that is specific to where we live?” In other words, how can we promote local sources of agricultural diversity that are good for the land and for people?

Richard is also helping document the diversity on his farm. He’s been sending blood samples to the South African National Research Foundation to help them build a DNA “hoof print” of what makes up a Zulu sheep. This sort of research is important not only for conserving the sheep, but for helping to increase local knowledge about the breeds that people have been raising for generations.

As a result of his conservation work, Richard and Enaleni Farm have been recognized by Slow Food International, which wants to work with the farm and local communities to find ways to ensure that the Zulu sheep don’t disappear.

Richard hopes to share his knowledge about agriculture with local farmers, teaching them how to spot and prevent disease in indigenous sheep, as well as explaining agro-ecological methods of raising food.