In this interview, Augustine Ayantune, senior animal scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) working in the Africa RISING West Africa project, introduces himself and his work with Africa RISING. It is one of a series of portraits of key people in the program.
Tell us about your background
I am a senior animal scientist at ILRI with more than 20 years experience. I am presently based at the ILRI office in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. I obtained my PhD degree in ruminant nutrition and rangeland management from the University of Wageningen, The Netherlands in 1998. However, my research focus extends beyond livestock feeds and feeding systems into natural resource management and analysis of the evolution of agro-pastoral systems in West Africa’s Sahel.
What do you do in your current position?
I evaluate livestock feed resources in West Africa, including participatory testing of livestock-related options for sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems, evaluation and monitoring of natural resource use in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems, natural resource governance, assessment of the vulnerability of agro-pastoral systems to climate change and conflict management. I have also been coordinating some bilateral projects and I am the ILRI focal person for Africa RISING in West Africa.
What are your plans for Africa RISING?
These include continuation of the on-farm farmer-managed trials on feed-health interventions for improved small ruminant production in northern Ghana, finalization of the formalization process of the local conventions in three Africa RISING intervention sites in Mali (Dieba, Sirakele and Zanzoni), and monitoring and evaluation of the effects of the formal local conventions on natural resource management, particularly on incidence of conflict. In addition, I will work with the two PhD students under my supervision on journal publications from their research under Africa RISING in Ghana and Mali.
What are the biggest Africa RISING challenges and how do we deal with them?
The initial challenge in Africa RISING was partnership management and integration of the activities of different partners. The situation has improved considerably with regular exchanges between partners and the deliberate efforts by the Africa RISING coordination unit to ensure integration of partners’ activities. There is also the challenge of translating project research findings into concrete development outputs, which is not unique to Africa RISING.
What are some of the main achievements of this program?
In my view, achievement by Africa RISING include:
- Building the capacity of farmers, researchers and students in sustainable intensification strategies for crop-livestock systems;
- Improving crop and livestock productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers through the dissemination of proven agronomic, agro-forestry and livestock technologies. For example, the feed-health interventions for sheep and goats have led to more births, reduced mortality and increased animal growth rates in northern Ghana.
- Creating better linkages among different actors through the research for development (R4D) platforms;
- Strengthening the local natural resource institutions through the development and formalization of local conventions for better natural resource management which has reduced conflict.
What gives you hope looking at a possible second phase, based on the first phase?
- Success stories from the first phase of proven technologies that improve crop and livestock productivity which are ready for scaling up;
- Strong and effective partnerships already in place from the first phase for better integrated activities which will facilitate speedy returns on investment;
- Positive feedback from the target communities on the benefits of the project activities to their livelihoods.