New Zealand’s dairy herd improvement cooperative, LIC, is enabling agricultural improvements in a country more renowned for coffee than cows with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ethiopia has around 60 million cattle, one of the largest bovine populations in Africa. Its combined herd produces about 90 percent of the country’s milk with additional supply coming from camels, goats and sheep. With a population of more than 110 million people, Ethiopia has a growing demand for animal products including dairy, meat and hides but this is currently limited by a lack of decision making tools and the ability to provide insights from the livestock sector.
The collaborative initiative, Project aLIVE (a Livestock Information Vision for Ethiopia), is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and aims to provide timely insights intended to increase production on farms in Ethiopia and decision making at a government level.
The primary focus is developing a roadmap for livestock data and information management that improves agricultural productivity in Ethiopia. Other components include strengthening the National Livestock Market Information System (NLMIS) and designing a working prototype for the National Animal Genetic Improvement Institute (NAGII) to improve the quality of data captured in the sector.
LIC Chief Executive Wayne McNee says the intention is to provide the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture, another important partner in the project, with a fit-for-purpose roadmap for a data and information management system by May 2021 that meets the requirements of the Ministry.
“The goal is to deliver a system that provides access to more accurate information enabling more sustainable growth, export opportunities and improves the wealth of farmers and the country. In order to achieve this we have a dedicated team pulling data from a range of agencies and sources including Ministry of agriculture directorates, research institutions and industry bodies. By the end of this year we should be able to capture a complete set of data that will provide an accurate view of Ethiopia’s livestock population.”
Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture Mr Oumer Hussein says, “We’ve seen the impact that well-organised data systems can have in countries like New Zealand, and we’re excited by the opportunity this presents for our livestock sector.”
McNee says LIC’s experience in improving New Zealand’s dairy herd puts it in good stead to deliver on what is both an exciting and rewarding project. “Ethiopia has one of the world’s fastest growing economies and its agricultural sector is made up of 74% pastoral farming. The local government has set ambitious growth targets for the country’s milk, meat, and poultry production, however the current situation of fragmented data and slow uptake on livestock traceability and genetics must be improved to make these targets achievable. We’re excited to be supporting this worthwhile and tangible goal. And while it’s significant, the Project takes no resources away from LIC’s core purpose of empowering livestock farmers through the delivery of superior genetics and technology.”
The initiative is LIC’s first major international project of this type. If successful, McNee says there could be other opportunities across Africa to adapt existing LIC tools and services to assist with improving agricultural productivity.
Photo below: LIC representatives with the wider Project aLIVE members and contributors including the New Zealand Ambassador to Ethiopia and representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture.