Humans, Machines and Ecosystems: can big data disrupt livestock development?

Report back from the 2019 CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention

By Vanessa Meadu

How can Big Data approaches like artificial intelligence, machine learning and text mining help researchers generate insights that conventional data collection and analysis cannot? Members of the LD4D Community of Practice attended the recent CGIAR Big Data in Agriculture Convention to gain new insights, share experience and connect with researchers and industry experts working on livestock, fish and crops.

This year’s Convention on the theme Trust: Humans, Machines & Ecosystems was hosted by The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Hyderabad, India. The booming city of Hyderabad – also known as Cyberabad – is a hotbed for the tech sector, and home to countless startups, innovators and disruptors. And India, which is home to nearly 18% of the world’s population (and growing), faces very real food security challenges. It was an appropriate setting to explore potential solutions to feed the future – “byte by byte”.  

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Ruminating on a sustainable future for livestock

Report back from the 9th Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock meeting

By Gareth Salmon, SEBI

The sustainability of livestock production is a hot topic of discussion and a very real global challenge. Livestock sustains the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers as well as feeding people and economies in the global North. But livestock production also contributes to climate change, environmental degradation and other harmful impacts. In response, the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL) convenes public and private sector actors, intergovernmental organizations, academia and research, social movements, NGOs and donors to develop solutions. To date, 111 official partners including 20 governments have joined the agenda to share good practices and policies, and champion the principle that all livestock production systems can be more sustainable, no matter where they are.

On behalf of the Livestock Data for Decisions (LD4D) Community of Practice, Karen Smyth and I attended the 9th partnership meeting, hosted by Kansas State University (USA).

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Video: Can we feed the planet, and stay within planetary boundaries? With Professor Mario Herrero

In this seminar, Professor Mario Herrero addresses the key messages of the EAT Lancet Report, including the role of livestock in sustainable and healthy diets. 

Earlier this year, the EAT–Lancet Commission released a report addressing how to feed a growing global population a healthy diet while also defining sustainable food systems that will minimise damage to our planet.  

Professor Mario Herrero, a contributor to the EAT-Lancet report and SEBI collaborator, gave a seminar on the realities of navigating these issues, including the role of livestock in sustainable and healthy diets. 

WATCH NOW: 

Click to watch Prof Mario HErrero discuss the Eat-Lancet Planetary Boundaries Diet.
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A streamlined tool for rural household surveys – Q&A with Jim Hammond on RHoMIS – the Rural Household Multi-Indicator Survey

Interviewed by Vanessa Meadu

There are great opportunities to improve the process of gathering information from farming households, particularly in Low and Middle-Income countries where development projects depend on solid data for their success, and existing data resources are scarce.

Enter RHoMIS – the Rural Household Multi-Indicator Survey, which aims to reduce the costs, time requirements and reporting burdens for those who carry out household surveys. The development team have built and used a bank of survey questions based on internationally recognised indicators, covering all aspects of farming systems, including livestock. The database contains a wealth of information that may unlock important solutions to livestock challenges.

We spoke with Jim Hammond, a scientist based at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who co-leads the RHoMIS team, about how RHoMIS could help close livestock data gaps and uncover new insights.

Vanessa Meadu: How can RHoMIS help improve the reliability of data on livestock and rural livelihoods in Low and Middle-Income Countries?

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Monitor, learn, evaluate: Tracking the impact of livestock development projects

Projects will generate data and insights on progress and impacts

by Vanessa Meadu, Gareth Salmon, Louise Donnison and Karen Smyth

Across Low and Middle-Income Countries, organisations are working to improve livestock health and productivity so livestock keepers can find a pathway out of poverty. Ongoing monitoring, learning and evaluation (MLE) is critical to help project implementers and their funders understand how they are progressing towards desired impacts. But selecting the right indicators and collecting relevant data is an enormous challenge, requiring expertise, and staff time. Done poorly, MLE can lead to incomplete or incorrect conclusions, and be a waste of time. If done well, it can help project managers gain valuable insights for their business, and give funders a better sense of portfolio impact.

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Consultancy opportunity: Modelling Intervention Impacts

The Supporting Evidence-based Interventions (SEBI) initiative, based at the University of Edinburgh, aims to boost the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by delivering evidence-based technologies and interventions that offer sustainable solutions to the livestock production challenges they face.

SEBI is seeking a consultant who can model what actions would be necessary to reduce national ruminant livestock mortality rates by 10-15% (compared to a 2010 baseline reference point), in Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania by 2020.

Deadline for proposals: 12 July 2019

Prospective applicants are invited to contact Professor Andy Peters for an informal discussion about the project.

Header image credit: Z Sewunet ILRI (source)

LiveGAPS team release nutrient production app

by Jeda Palmer, CSIRO

The LiveGAPS team have released a new app to compare nutrient production of livestock by farm size for Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

With this app, you can visualise the quantity of different nutrients, for example protein, that is produced by livestock from farms of different sizes.

The data shows that small farms (<20 ha) produce the majority of protein for Tanzania, Nigeria and Ethiopia, with very small farms (<2 ha) contributing a considerable amount of protein.

Check out the nutrient production app on the LiveGAPS website.  

LiveGAPS is led by the Global Food and Nutrition Security team at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The project aims to identify ways to maximise yields in livestock systems for poverty alleviation, global food security and sustainability, by estimating the gap between actual and potential productivity of livestock. This will be achieved by using new information from surveys and livestock monitoring systems to develop livestock and household simulation models


Jeda Palmer is a research technician in the CSIRO Global Food and Nutrition group, based in Brisbane, Australia.

Photo credit: Jeda Palmer (CSIRO)