Developing the butter value chain in Ethiopia – LIVES first working paper published

What does it takes to improve the productivity of Ethiopian livestock sector?

Whatever issue you raise about improving livestock productivity in the Ethiopian livestock sector, you can never overstate the importance of improving the quality and quantity of feed. A new working paper on Ethiopian butter value chain also concluded that feed and fertility should be improved.


The baseline survey of the LIVES project and the IPMS sponsored rapid butter market appraisal study clearly demonstrate the importance of butter in rural Ethiopia. The results of the rapid market survey conducted in the 10 Pilot Learning Woredas provided an insight into the functioning of the butter value chain. Results show that to improve the production of fluid milk and to increase the production of butter in rural areas, feed and fertility management need to be improved. Genetic improvement, especially crosses of local breeds with high fat content breeds, should also be encouraged. Since artificial insemination (AI) is not usually available in rural areas, use can be made of mobile teams and hormone assisted oestrus synchronization and mass insemination.

The working paper starts by describing butter production system in Ethiopia and its importance in the LIVES project areas.  It then presents results obtained from the LIVES baseline data exercise…

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This tree is an ethnic Afar, that one over there is a woman: What agroforestry-Climate Change studies used to miss. A new Paper

You can read our new paper here

Traditionally, agroforestry practices in developing countries focus on the introduction of high productivity and high cash value trees. However, despite many millions of seedlings planted every year, the improvement in income, ecosystem services, environmental resilience and climate change adaptation objectives that agroforestry claims to achieve simultaneously, are not to the standard of the effort.  A mechanistic recommendation of planting high value species in mass did not result in the envisaged outputs because, for many small holder farmers, trees are not just trees, but understood and treated with in a complex background of social, economic, cultural, ecological and even religious influences.  Through co-evolution and culturally charged interaction with tree species, with a back drop of changing climate and environment, specific communities have developed different extra-economic attachments and values to different species.

Unlike conventional agroforestry, where species for plantations and introductions are selected based on productive potential, be it timber, calories, livestock fodder nutritional value etc.,  local communities use complex criteria which are specific for specific demographic sects of communities such as villages, cultures, ethnicity, gender etc, for deciding to plant a seedling and nurse it to maturity.  Look at for example the finding from one study of ours (Figure 1) where species which were introduced by highly funded and orchestrated government programs in northern Ethiopia were not well accepted by local communities, while Ficus thonningii, a little know tree with diverse locally appreciated qualities (mainly its resilience in a changing climate) has steadily increased in the number of cuttings planted and survived.

Trends in number of surviving trees (locally planted Vs Introduced by agroforestry)
Trends in number of surviving trees (locally planted Vs Introduced by agroforestry)

We have therefore, studied if factors other than productive potential, or nutritive value of fodder trees determine their acceptance by small holder farmers and pastoralists. We used a local board game, the ‘Gebeta’, to elicit quantitative information about local people’s preference of different qualities in indigenous trees . Moreover, we also scanned fodder samples from these indigenous tree species using near infrared reflectance spectroscopy (NIRS) to assess their nutritional value (a conventional agroforesty quality). We then looked for relationships between the results from the two knowledge systems.

Integrated valuation of indigenous fodder trees using local valuation measures ('gebeta' scores) and conventional agro-forestry merit (NIRS)
Integrated valuation of indigenous fodder trees using local valuation measures (‘gebeta’ scores) and conventional agro-forestry merit (NIRS)

Results were clear, not only that ‘gebeta‘ values for most species did not correlate with NIRS values, but also that different demographic sects (ethnic, gender and age) had different preferences and valuations of same trees. This implies that agroforestry recommendations, based on technical merits of a species, without consulting local needs and priorities, will not bring the livelihoods and environmental change that agroforestry envisage to bring, just because most of the species that are introduced based on their technical merits are not planted at all or not cared for after planting.  Therefore we developed a combined multi-criteria species selection process to identify those that fulfill the requirements of both animal nutrition science and local requirements, which ultimately resulted in different list of species than would have been expected from pure animal nutrition based selection.

Livestock and climate change: Where the BIG opportunities lie

One way by which small scale livestock herders can adapt to a changing climate is by shifting focus to more adapted, drought tolerant and native fodder species. An example we identified can be read here

ILRI news


Some of our biggest opportunities for both reducing and coping with climate change lie among the one billion poor people raising farm animals across the developing world (ILRI poster).

Systems analyst and livestock-climate change scientist Philip Thornton of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) says livestock systems in developing countries remain understudied. This even though livestock keepers, whether pastoral herders or ‘mixed’ crop-livestock farmers, are essential to development destinies in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the world’s poverty and hunger remain the most concentrated.

The good news is that there are many ways small-scale livestock keepers can adapt to the changing climate, e.g. by making their production more efficient—a triple win for raising household incomes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product and coping with variable climates.

The bad news is we still haven’t reliably reckoned the costs and benefits of many livestock adaptation options in developing countries.

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Call for abstracts: Conference on policies for competitive smallholder livestock production

Competitive Smallholder Livestock in Botswana

The Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) in collaboration with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) will hold a conference on 26-28 November 2014 in Gaborone, Botswana with the theme: Policies for competitive smallholder livestock production.

The conference aims to provide an opportunity for African and international scientists and the broader stakeholder groups in the livestock production sector to discuss competitiveness in livestock production systems and improving the livelihoods of livestock farmers, especially smallholders, with emphasis on southern Africa.

The broader objectives of the conference are to gather researchers, policymakers and development partners working in the area of assessing competitiveness in agricultural food production and marketing, and to provide answers to various questions rotating around four thematic areas.

It is hoped that at the end of the conference, there will be specific recommendations for the key questions and how to enhance the competitiveness…

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The difference one tree can make

Here is another reminder that ‘indigenous tree species’, though not as fast growing as the exotic ones, may hold the secrets for successful rehabilitation.
This Post was originally written by Kathleen Buckingham

Trees have become an iconic image of environmentalism, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we should plant millions of them.

While scale is important for landscape restoration, we need to reconsider quality and not just quantity. When does the presence of a tree really make a difference, and when is it neither an environmental or economical solution to a host of complex issues? What are the implications for food security, biodiversity and landscape protection?

First, we need to take a step back—why shouldn’t we count the trees? Planting hundreds or even millions of trees does not automatically translate into an increase in the overall long-term tree population. To increase population levels, survival and planting rates have to outweigh losses from tree mortality and removal.
babao tree

The difference one tree can make.