Livestock Innovation Lab Archive


Livestock Innovation Lab Archive: Scholars in East Africa

See Publications and Research Briefs for Outputs

The Scholar Program identifies early-career researchers who are interested in tackling livestock production problems through innovative approaches and fresh perspectives. This small-grant program is open to early-career researchers (five or fewer years into research career) in any discipline, from student to professor, and from any organization that is engaged in applied research on livestock production in South Asia and East Africa —colleges and universities, government research centers or laboratories, or non-profit organizations.


Evaluating climate-change adaptability and nutritive value of cattle-preferred forages in Mount Marsabit area of northern Kenya

  • Principal Investigator: David Duba Golicha

  • Abstract:Cattle production serves as a primary source of income for pastoralists living on Mount Marsabit in northern Kenya. But recent changes in climate have left rangelands deteriorated and a move toward a sedentary lifestyle has decreased pastoralists’ access to pasture lands. As a result, pastoralists face feed shortages, which threaten their ability to maintain their livelihoods. To adapt, pastoralists have learned how to grow and produce their own forage. However, there is only limited knowledge on what forage livestock prefer, what forage is the must nutritious and what forage can adapt to future changes in climate. Innovation Lab Scholar David Duba Golicha, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, plans to answer these questions by identifying and recommending several forage species suitable for on-farm production. Golicha will base these recommendations off of data collected from forage samples, interviews and focus group discussions with local pastoralists. Government extension officers, non-governmental organizations and researchers will be able to use results from this study to advise pastoralists in the future. By increasing the productivity and efficiency of forage farming, pastoralists can improve forage availability on Mount Marsabit, thereby reducing food scarcity. This has the potential to minimize livestock mortality and thus, improve pastoral livelihoods.


  • Principal Investigator: Etalemahu Haile

  • Abstract:Over the past two decades, national and international research agencies have developed improved livestock feed production technologies in an effort to combat livestock feed shortages during times of drought. Specifically, researchers identified several different legume species that can significantly increase pasture yields. However, pastoralists’ adoption and utilization of this specific technology has remained relatively low. As a result, the potential of forage legumes to supplement and improve natural pasture productivity remains untapped. Innovation Lab Scholar Etalemahu Haile, Hawassa University, plans to find out why by examining the current utilization status and by identifying factors inhibiting the adoption of introduced forage legumes on the Borana Plateau in southern Ethiopia. Through household surveys, field observations and a comprehensive literature review, Haile hopes to identify better ways to improve forage legume adoption. The results from this study will help development agencies and policy-makers develop intervention strategies that will increase adoption rates. In addition, results from this study will also be shared with pastoral households in the hopes that they will be motivated to improve forage production practices.


Analyzing Determinants of Adaptation Choices to Climate Change by Small Ruminant Producers in Northern Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Fikeremaryam Birara

  • Abstract:Climate change impacts, such as drought and flooding, threaten the health and sustainability of livestock systems in Ethiopia. Among the livestock species, small ruminant animals, such as sheep and goats, are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change, such as increase incidence of disease and low reproductive performance. In order to maintain their livelihoods, small ruminant producers must choose how to adapt to these changes. But what factors determine these choices? Innovation Lab Scholar Fikeremaryam Birara, Mekelle University, hopes to answer this question using data collected in interviews with over 300 pastoral households living in various climatic zones. The results of this study will help policy makers, farmers and other stakeholders better understand the factors that affect which adaptation strategies small ruminant producers choose to adopt. The study will also verify whether different adaptation strategies correspond to different climatic zones. Ultimately, this study will help farmers’ choose the best adaptation strategy available, and thus improve livestock production and household income. “In responding to the adverse effects of climate change, small ruminant producers that already acquire sufficient knowledge of alternative adaptation methods will be able to produce in better ways,” Birara wrote in her project proposal.


Sero-epidemiological Investigation of Peste des Petits Ruminants in Selected Districts of Afar and Tigary Regions

  • Principal Investigator: Kassaw Amssalu

  • Abstract:Sheep and goats serve as an important livelihood asset for low-income households in Ethiopia. However, sheep and goat productivity has decreased due to increasing rates of disease. One particular disease, Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR), can cause mortality rates as high as 90 percent in adolescent sheep and goat populations. This highly contagious disease is characterized by high fever, pneumonia, and inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Researchers have confirmed reports of the disease in Ethiopia, but are still uncertain of what factors cause the disease to spread. Lately, PPR outbreak trends have become so abnormal that the disease is now too unpredictable to implement a preventive vaccination campaign. Innovation Lab Scholar Kassaw Amssalu, Mekelle University, will conduct a study to determine how many animals have been infected with PPR and to identify the potential risk factors associated with the disease. Amssalu will analyze blood samples from over 750 goats and interview 200 animal owners. The results from this study will help regional and national level policy-makers develop disease control and prevention measures. “Because sheep and goats are highly valuable animal species for household farmers in the particular study areas, control of such diseases is to be a major goal for programs aimed at poverty alleviation,” Amssalu wrote in his project proposal.


Empowering Small-scale Women Farmers through Improved Beekeeping Technologies in Kajiado County – Kenya

  • Principal Investigator: Beatrice Mugo

  • Abstract:Beekeeping can serve as a great alternative income source for low-income households in Kenya. In addition, bees help increase biodiversity and improve crop yields. Beekeeping can also play an important role in empowering poor women, who have limited access to resources, restricted rights, limited mobility, and a weak voice in community and household decisions. Innovation Lab Scholar Beatrice Mugo, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, plans to train ten members of the Olkiroriti women’s group in beekeeping practices. These women will then help to train at least 100 other farmers in the local community. Fifty improved beehives will be established among farmer groups in Kajiado County in Kenya. Mugo will also collect baseline data on the current status of beekeeping, available technologies and constraints and opportunities for women through a household survey. At the end of the project, Mugo expects an improvement in household incomes, economic status and livelihoods of beekeeping communities in Kajiado County. “There is a major potential for grassroots poverty alleviation and empowerment of local people through the practice of beekeeping,” Mugo wrote in her project proposal.


Improved Feeding Management of Indigenous Chickens as a Source of Livelihood Diversification Among Settled Agro-pastoralists of Marsabit County

  • Principal Investigator: Qabale Badake

  • Abstract:As pastoralists in Kenya shift to a more sedentary lifestyle, they begin to look for ways to diversify their income in an effort to sustain their families in times of drought. One option is for pastoralists, particularly women, to raise indigenous chickens. However, they lack the knowledge needed to maximize productivity. For example, pastoralists leave the chickens to scavenge during the day and feed them only a handful of maize grain in the morning and evening. As a result, the chickens’ diet is nutritionally lacking, leading to decreased productivity. Innovation Lab Scholar Qabale Badake, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, will evaluate the nutritive value of several locally available feed sources and the effect of these feeds on productivity. Badake will feed 40 chickens one of four different diets. Each day, Badake will check and record the weight of each chicken and the amount of feed consumed. The number of eggs produced and the weight of each egg will also be recorded daily. “Efficient use of locally available feeds in the right nutrient proportion may contribute to improved productivity of indigenous chickens, thereby improving food and nutritional security of the households,” Badake wrote in her project proposal.


Crop Production Practices and Its Socio-economic Contributions for the Livelihoods of Borana Pastoralists, South Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Abera Tilahun

  • Abstract:For centuries, pastoralists living on the Borana Plateau in south Ethiopia have depended on livestock production as their sole income source. However, an increasing population, uncertain climatic conditions, reduced access to grazing land and water, and reduced mobility threatens the sustainability and longevity of livestock systems in the region. As a result, pastoralists look to other sources of income, specifically crop production, to reduce their vulnerability to these new changes. However, little research exists on pastoralists’ agricultural practices, such as the types of crops planted, management practices used, and the role crops play in increasing livestock feed availability. Innovation Lab Scholar Abera Tilahun, Hawassa University, plans to evaluate pastoralists’ cropping practices and the contribution of crop production to pastoral livelihoods. Tilahun will collect data through a survey of 120 households, four focus group discussions, and 60 crop samples. From this data, Tilahun will identify the best performing crop types. “The result of this research will serve as a guideline for policy makers and other respective stakeholders to design effective and efficient pastoral development plans that are compatible to the environment, so as to ensure food security and improve livelihoods of the pastoral community,” Tilahun wrote in his project proposal.


Utilization of Indigenous Knowledge in Range Management and Livestock Productivity, Food Security and Nutrition in the Pastoral Community of Afar

  • Principal Investigator: TIgist Alemu

  • Abstract:More than 90 percent of Ethiopia’s livestock graze on natural rangelands. In recent years, however, these rangelands have deteriorated due to soil erosion, overgrazing, unpredictable rainfall and poor management. Through the centuries, pastoralists have acquired a vast understanding of their animals and the land they inhabit. However, this knowledge has been left largely untapped by policy makers. Innovation Lab Scholar Tigist Alemu, will document this indigenous knowledge in an effort to better understand the existing rangelands. Through visual observations and interviews with 300 households, Alemu will document traditional techniques in rangeland management and their impact on livestock production. The results of this study will then be used to suggest rangeland management practices that will help prevent further degradation. “The appropriate policy interventions that will give pastoral communities and their rangelands adequate rights of protection are essential for the sustainable use of resources and the conservation of biological diversity for the long-term food security of livestock keepers,” Alemu wrote in her project proposal.


Alternative Feed Resources for Climate Change Adaptation in Arid Regions of Kenya

  • Principal Investigator: Margaret Syomiti Muteng’e

  • Abstract:Climate change is a major challenge to agricultural development in Africa and the world at large. Agriculture, one of the most weather-dependent of all human activities, is highly vulnerable to climate change. The negative impacts of climate change are more severely felt by rural-poor people in arid regions who rely heavily on livestock keeping. Direct effects of climate change on livestock productivity include: decline in livestock productivity, low productive potential of local breeds, decline in forage quantity, quality and distribution, declining grazing areas, problem of access to water, conflicts over limited natural resources, animal diseases and fluctuations in livestock market prices. Research into new feed, resilient alternative forage species and efficiency in feed utilization by livestock has the potential to produce innovations that can reduce feed requirements and costs as well as reduce climate change impacts on livestock productivity in vulnerable rural communities, particularly in marginal areas. Although supplementary feeding would be a solution to low quality of feeds, it may not be affordable to the rural poor. Therefore, assessment of locally available drought resilient feeds, which is the focus Scholar Syomit’s research, would offer a solution in dry land pastoralism.


Dynamics of Production and Livelihood Systems of Settling Pastoralists in the Dry Lands of Southern Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Beyene Teklu

  • Abstract:In order to survive in an unpredictable climate, pastoralists in southern Ethiopia have long maintained a mobile lifestyle, searching for food and water for their livestock. However, this long-standing way of life is coming to an end as pastoralists begin to adopt a sedentary lifestyle instead. Settling brings hopes of livelihood improvements in the form of infrastructure, veterinary access, health services, education, market access and livestock feed availability. Although this lifestyle promises positive change, very little research has been conducted on what such a shift will mean to the livestock production system and its future in a changing climate. TIRI scholar Beyene Teklu, Hawassa University, hopes to address some of the uncertainties of this new way of life. Teklu will first survey pastoralists in the Borana zone in southern Ethiopia and then collect data on local forage cover and composition. Then, Teklu will model how a sustainable livestock production system will look in the future. This model will help policy makers make decisions that will improve the efficiency, productivity and sustainability of the system. For example, if the model shows that settlement will reduce the number of livestock per household, then policy can be implemented that will help improve livestock productivity. “This study will serve as a guideline for policy makers and other stockholders to design effective and efficient intervention options for sustainable pastoral development plan with the final goal of ensuring food security and improving the livelihoods of pastoralists,” Teklu wrote in his project proposal.


Prospects of Communal Natural Resource Management Systems and Livelihoods of Borana Pastoralists in the Face of Climate Change, Southern Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Yibeltal Tebikew Wassie

  • Abstract:Known as the “Gadaa System,” a set of social codes and regulations has guided generations of Borana pastoralists, an ethnic group in southern Ethiopia, in the communal and sustainable use of natural resources. However, this system has started to weaken under climate change stress and socio-political changes, including the shift towards a sedentary lifestyle, as the availability of resources starts to decline and land and resource competition becomes greater. Some argue that abandoning this system will result in diversified income, access to education and improved livelihoods; others argue that abandoning the system will not improve livelihoods and will lead to loss of indigenous knowledge. TIRI scholar Yibeltal Tebikew Wassie, Hawassa University, will study the value and future of this communal natural resource management system in the face of these stressors and what this will mean to the livelihoods of the Borana pastoralists. Wassie plans to insert the information he collects through interviews and data collection into two different models. The Double-exposure Analysis framework will allow Wassie to assess the stressors’ impact on the system, livelihood quality, resource conflicts and more. The Resilience and Livelihoods model will help show the system’s level of resiliency to stressors. The results of the study will help policy makers and pastoralists identify the specific factors weakening the system, as well as areas in the system that can be improved and adapted for efficiency if the system is deemed valuable and necessary to maintaining livelihoods. “[This study] envisages producing valuable knowledge that can significantly contribute towards developing climate-resilient pastoral resources use, livestock production and improved Borana livelihoods,” Wassie wrote in his project proposal.


The Livelihood Effects of Landless Cattle Owners’ Participation on Hillside Rehabilitation in Tigray, Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Melaku Berhe Redda

  • Abstract:Mountainous and increasingly drought-prone, the hillside regions of the Tigray Regional State in northern Ethiopia degrade as livestock herds overgraze the land’s few forage patches. This leaves the land devoid of vegetation and the animals in poor health and productivity. However, some livestock owners are experimenting with sustainable adaptation strategies to rehabilitate the hillsides. Such strategies involve planting trees, installing stone-bunds (stones lined together along a contour to allow runoff to spread evenly) or implementing trenches in order to produce fodder, honey, fruits, vegetables and crops. TIRI scholar Melaku Berhe Redda, Mekelle University, plans to examine the effects of these strategies on the livelihoods of over 450 livestock owners. The results of his study will allow policy makers and other livestock owners to learn more about and adopt effective adaptation strategies in the future. Ultimately, the study will help livestock producers both increase feed for their animals and rehabilitate the degraded hillsides. “Cattle owners will be able to improve the existing inefficient methods and replace with the ones practically identified” for livelihood improvement by conserving the hillside areas, Redda wrote in his project proposal.


Assessing Carbon Stocks and its Economic Potential in Communal Grazing Areas of Marsabit, Northern Kenya

  • Principal Investigator: Bulle Hallo Dabasso

  • Abstract:With climate change threatening traditional pastoral systems in Kenya, pastoralists need to find additional sources of income. One alternative income source comes in the form of ecosystem services, or the natural services (i.e., decomposition, water, etc.) of an ecosystem given economic value. Pastoralists could receive payments for sequestering carbon through sustainable rangeland and livestock management practices. In fact, over half of Africa’s carbon stocks, or the amount of carbon stored in the environment, can be found in pastoral rangelands. If pastoralists seek payment for carbon sequestration, they not only increase their incomes but also lower carbon emissions. However, a carbon credit trade policy has not yet been created because the rangeland’s spatially and temporally heterogeneous landscape makes it difficult to estimate carbon stocks. TIRI scholar Bulle Hallo Dabasso, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, will develop the methodology to assess the carbon stocks in the spatial and temporal heterogeneous environment of Marsabit County in northern Kenya. With the help of local pastoralists and GPS, Dabasso will develop maps of the landscape, assessing carbon stocks at different seasons and in varying landscape types. Lastly, Dabasso will review carbon markets and transaction costs in order to determine the economic feasibility of a carbon credit trade in African rangelands. The results of this study will contribute to policy on carbon credit trade. “The pastoralists will be the primary indirect beneficiaries, with the possibility of generating income from sequestration and avoidance of carbon emissions,” Dabasso wrote in his project proposal.


Promoting Food Safety and Security Through Improving Camel Health and Production in Pastoral Areas of Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Habtamu Tassew Tarekegn

  • Abstract:The camel’s superior ability to survive in low water and food conditions makes it the primary livestock choice for pastoralists in Ethiopia. In addition, pastoralists can generate income from camel milk and meat, making the animal an important part of pastoralists’ livelihoods. But, camels, along with sheep and goats, are becoming more susceptible to diseases in the changing climate. These zoonotic diseases, including brucellosis, which causes abortions, and tuberculosis, which causes the animal to become weak, can lead to loss of productivity and, thus, income. Camels can become infected with Brucella organisms, the cause of brucellosis, when they come into contact with other infected large and small ruminants. Humans then become vulnerable to the disease if they consume infected, unheated milk. TIRI scholar Habtamu Tassew Tarekegn, Mekelle University, plans to determine the prevalence of brucellosis in camels and small ruminants in Mehoni, located in the southeast region of Tigray, Ethiopia. Tarekegn also plans to determine which factors, such as environmental stressors, put livestock at a higher risk of infection. The results of the study can help pastoralists identify prevention measures, as well as help policy makers protect public health. “This study is designed in such a way that it will help in promoting food safety and security through improving camel health and production in pastoral communities of Mehoni and Afar Region, Ethiopia,” Tarekegn said.


Antimicrobial Resistance among Zoonotic Organisms in Camel Ecosystem and Consequences on Pastoralists’ Public Health and Livelihoods

  • Principal Investigator: Peter Obimbo Lamuka

  • Abstract:Camel milk markets have the potential to create jobs, increase income and better livelihoods for many people in Kenya. However, these markets remain untapped because pastoralists do not have adequate veterinary resources to maintain the health of their camels to market standards. Without proper health management, camels can contract zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transferred from animals to humans), develop resistance to antibiotics and produce milk containing drug residues and antibiotic-resistance zoonotic organisms. This, coupled with the magnifying effects of climate change on zoonotic organisms, compromises the safety of camel milk and the health of camels and pastoralists. TIRI scholar Peter Obimbo Lamuka, University of Nairobi, will study current camel health in the pastoral communities of Isiolo County in Kenya. To do so, Lamuka plans to survey pastoralists’ camel health management practices, test camels, humans and water for zoonotic organisms and test camel milk for presence of drug residues. The study’s results could help policy makers develop camel disease management plans and understand the need for more veterinary resources for pastoralists. Ultimately, with the results of Lamuka’s research, camel milk could meet market safety standards. “Meeting market requirements will lead to improved incomes and create employment,” Lamuka wrote in his project proposal. “This will in turn contribute to poverty reduction and improved livelihoods among the pastoralist communities in general, and particularly women and youth, who are main actors in camel milk marketing.”


Improved Processing and Storage of Local Supplementary Feeds for Feeding Livestock During Drought and Dry Season in Northern Kenya

  • Principal Investigator: Moses Lengarite

  • Abstract:During climate-change intensified drought periods in northern Kenya, the amount of natural forage available is limited, causing pastoralists to lose large numbers of livestock. Some pastoralists have tried to conserve and store supplementary feed in times of excess to use during these drought periods, however they lack the adequate technology to process and store the feed for long periods of time. TIRI scholar Moses Lengarite, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, will conduct an on-farm feeding trail in Olturot area, Marsabit County to test different feed processing and storage technologies. The feed used in the study will be tested before and after being stored for 3-6 months to determine its nutritional value. The study will also assess the performance of lactating goats and their kids supplemented with processed and stored feeds during the dry season. At the end of the study, workshops will be provided for other pastoralists in the area to learn more about the different processing and storage technologies. Lengarite expects that a majority of pastoralists in the study sites will adopt these technologies once they see the success of the on-farm study. With these new technologies, pastoralists will have high quality forage available to feed their animals during the dry periods, which will ultimately increase milk production, reduce livestock mortalities and increase market value. “Application of feed processing and storage technologies appropriate to the pastoral production system would mitigate loss of livestock during drought, improve productivity and thus the livelihood of livestock producers,” Lengarite wrote in his project proposal.


The Use of Sorghum Silage in Developing Silage-Based Feeding Practice to Mitigate the Effects of Climate Change in Shoa Robit, Ethiopia

  • Principal Investigator: Aschalew Tsegahun

  • Abstract:With irregular and inconsistent rainfalls caused by climate change, Ethiopia’s rain-fed crops, which provide a livelihood to 80 percent of the population, produce reduced yields or end in complete failure. Facing food scarcity and the inability to feed their livestock during the dry periods, farmers must find feed alternatives. Some farmers have tried to collect and keep leftover crop residue, known as stover, from harvest to feed their livestock. However, the stover loses its nutritive value when stored outside; left to be grazed freely by the animals, much of the stover is also wasted. TIRI scholar Aschalew Tsegahun, Debre Berhan Research Center, plans to work with farmers in Shoa Robit, Ethiopia to determine the success of a silage-based feeding system, which involves compacting and then storing the stover in airtight silos. Tsegahun and his team will plant two different varieties of sorghum, a major cereal crop, in the study area. Then, the harvested sorghum stover will be treated with urea-molasses to promote fermentation and add feed value and then packed in layers in a silo. Volunteer farmers’ lactating cows will be divided into three treatment groups. One group of cows will act as the control, not feeding on any silage. A second group will be fed silage. And, a third group will be fed silage in addition to a commercial concentrate that will provide other necessary proteins. The lactating cows in each of the treatment groups will be monitored for milk production and quality. At the end of the study, other farmers in the area will be invited to a demonstration of silage feeding. The results of the study will help farmers’ face food-scarce dry periods and increase income and food security. “At the end of the trial, farmers would be able to notice that feed shortages during the dry season can be alleviated and overall animal performance could be improved through appropriate and efficient use of feed conservation methods,” Tsegahun wrote in his project proposal.


Estimating Rangeland Grass Productivity under Different Herbivore Pressure and Climate Change Scenarios

  • Principal Investigator: Samuel Tuffa Kawo

  • Abstract:Increasingly unpredictable rainfall and overgrazing caused by reduced land area constitute two of many factors that may be reducing the productivity and nutritional value of the Borana rangeland grasses in southern Ethiopia that feed pastoralists’ livestock. However, very little research has been done on the exact effects of these two factors, especially in combination, on rangeland health. TIRI scholar Samuel Tuffa Kawo, University of Hohenheim, plans to bridge this information gap by comparing the effects of varying levels of grazing and rainfall on rangeland grass productivity. To do so, Kawo will monitor grass regrowth after exposure to different grazing and moisture levels first in a simulated and controlled environment and then in the field. Kawo will also gather livestock population dynamics in order to model and predict an optimum carrying capacity, or the number of animals a landscape can sustain, and future management strategies to maintain sustainability. Lastly, the study will determine the implications of grazing and rainfall on carbon stocks, or the amount of carbon stored in the environment, which will help determine the potential of a carbon trade, in which pastoralists would be paid for sequestering carbon through sustainable rangeland practices, as an additional income source. The results of the study will help policy makers better predict the health of rangelands under different climate conditions. “Effective decision making requires understanding of the important biotic and abiotic components of rangeland systems, such as the response of rangeland vegetation to herbivory and climatic change … A better understanding of grass productivity and its controlling factors in modern savanna ecosystems could be a key to understanding the productivity of savannas and to predict responses to future climatic changes,” Kawo wrote in his project proposal.


Women’s Workload and their Role in Livestock Production in Afar Regional State

  • Principal Investigator: Aklilu Nigussie Megos

  • Abstract:Women make up about 65 percent of Ethiopia’s agricultural work force, thus shouldering the base of the Ethiopian economy. And, with a push to increase productivity and income in the pastoralist and agricultural sectors, women’s workloads have intensified, as they try to balance both pastoral and household duties. TIRI scholar Aklilu Nigussie Megos, Ethiopian Institutes of Agricultural Research, will learn more about women’s daily tasks through questionnaires, discussion and data collection in a sample of 320 households. Then, Megos will introduce different technologies that may reduce or alleviate women’s workloads. Policy makers and non-government organizations will be able to use the research results to develop intervention strategies in an effort to lighten women’s workloads. “The results of this study will be expected to portray the exact situation of women and help correct the imbalances and recognize the vital linkage between women’s status and the implementation of sustainable development initiatives,” Megos wrote in his project proposal.