Capacity development of actors along livestock value chains


To strengthen the capacities of livestock keepers, public and private sector actors to effectively perform their core roles in order to facilitate market-oriented livestock development.


Gaps in institutional leadership and management, as well as in the skills and knowledge needed to facilitate the effective uptake of available technologies, represent perhaps the biggest challenge for livestock development in Africa today. The AU-NEPAD Capacity Development Strategic Framework (CDSF), endorsed at the 14th African Union Assembly in February 2010,[1] explicitly recognized the capacity challenge facing the continent and identified the need for capacity development to equip private and public sector personnel with the competencies to do their jobs.

While there is a general dearth of capacity in livestock R&D in most West African countries, , there are specific challenges with respect to the lack of technical capacity related to animal genetic resources, value chain analysis and development and entrepreneurship and institutional leadership at community, producer and market organization levels. A major thrust of this theme will be to facilitate the development of human capacity in the institutions that drive the livestock agenda in the region, especially in smaller countries.

A specific capacity challenge for animal agriculture is the rapid decline in new blood in the sector as young people increasingly move to cities in search of better opportunities. Whether this is due to familial or educational influence (e.g. animal and crop agriculture are considered second rate subjects and thus downplayed in education), it is resulting in a generation of youth that avoid working in agriculture. How can such cultural and curricular problems be addressed? What capacity development interventions are needed and who should they target? Students, teachers, parents, industry?

The main objective of this strategic theme is to enhance the capacity of the institutions and individuals – farmers and farmer organizations, public and private sector actors – whose interventions will increase the probability of wealth creation and food and nutrition security from livestock.

Main challenges:

Key challenges that will underpin the capacity development thrusts under this theme include:

  1. How to build the capacity of actors to create functional and productive linkages between small-scale rural producers, value-added processing firms, buyers in growing urban markets and suppliers of critical inputs.
  2. How to help small-scale producers to work together in well-managed associations or other types of collective action collective action (e.g. farmer organizations) that are accountable to members, operate transparently and seek to achieve economies of scale in their transactions with input suppliers and buyers of livestock and livestock products.
  3. How to make critical information (e.g. about product specifications, market prices) and other business services available to the rural livestock keepers that need them to make informed decisions.
  4. How to enable rural livestock keepers to understand and better satisfy the product, process or delivery standards demanded by different markets, including increasingly sophisticated urban consumers and high value regional markets.
  5. How to diversify and raise levels of knowledge and skills in livestock production and commodity processing that adds value to products.
  6. How to make relevant financial services available to rural producers to enable them to invest in improving and expanding their livestock enterprises or to diversify out of livestock into alternative livelihood opportunities, when these represent better options.
  7. How to provide livestock extension support that is more helpful, contextualized and responsive to rapidly changing biophysical, social and market contexts.
  8. How to improve leadership and management of institutions involved in livestock R&D to make them more proactive, responsive, solution-driven and success-hungry operations driven by a sense of urgency.
  9. How to create interest among today’s youth in entering livestock value chains.


Youth and agriculture

The current crop of school and college-age young people is the future that will drive agriculture. There is need to help change their conviction that agriculture has to be a low paying, heavy lifting career and far less desirable than one where success is about creativity and innovation. Tackling this challenge at source will require that specific attention be paid to the question of school curricula, namely the concern that youth are not being adequately exposed by their schools to the realities of life in agriculture, including livestock.

Innovative partnerships, entrepreneurship and business skills development:

Market intermediaries can play an important role in stimulating entrepreneurship among poor livestock keepers. From the trader to the more complex relationships in contract farming, there are opportunities along the livestock value chain to engage start-up livestock keepers (e.g. youth and recent entrants to farming) and to equip career livestock keepers to respond better to changing production and market circumstances. This can translate into flows of inputs and advisory services for livestock production, technical assistance, credit, or even business skills development; such support has been shown to catalyze entrepreneurship among crop farmers. Innovative partnerships and business models are arising as well, such as with for-profit social enterprises and contract farming relationships.

Building on existing institutions:

Farmers’, women’s and youth organizations are very active in many countries in West Africa. There are also many NGOs and CBOs working on livestock development issues and small businesses are emerging that provide a range of services along the livestock commodity value chain. These institutions provide entry points for intervention, with initial attention being given to determining which show the most promise and how they can help to demonstrate how the adoption of ‘good practices’ can make a difference.

Public sector readiness for change:

While the situation is still far from satisfactory, there is evidence that many governments in West Africa are ready to move from giving lip service to agriculture (including livestock) to concrete action. The need for greater public sector investment in agriculture is now recognized and some governments have honored their commitment to the 2003 Maputo Declaration, which committed African governments to allocate ten per cent of their national budget to agriculture and rural development within five years. Many governments in West Africa, however, are struggling with how to make this happen. Without timely and appropriate advice, investments in capacity building could easily go into traditional training courses which have little hope of unlocking systemic institutional challenges.

At this time, there is a clear opportunity for WALIC to develop innovative capacity building approaches that target broader institutional transformation, underpinned by a new cadre of institutional leaders and managers, through change management programmes focusing on the key institutions driving the livestock development agenda.

Key result areas:

For WALIC, capacity will not only be about technical and business skills. It will also address incentives, attitudes and institutional governance. It will involve making institutional changes to farmers’ organizations, NGOs, public and private sector institutions involved in livestock R&D in order to enable them to better embrace solution-driven approaches and to adopt systems that demand, mentor and reward innovation. Capacity building for research and extension personnel will seek to help them to better engage producers and service providers in adopting more facilitative engagement approaches than the traditional top-down technology generation and promotion.

This thematic area will seek to address system capacity constraints (as opposed to individual training events, which have not worked well). In essence, this approach will prioritize transformational capacities, with the accompanying adjustment of mind-set necessary for change readiness. Moreover, the approach will not be to provide capacity development services from the top down. Instead, it will focus on learning by doing; communities, local governments, farmer’s organizations and private sector actors will be involved in system-changing capacity development focused on addressing systemic challenges in their institutions or value chains.

The approach will include diagnostic processes to help stakeholders identify their capacity needs and to help institutions involved in livestock R&D become accountable to their clients.

Not all livestock keepers will transition to successful commercial enterprises. Some will not easily survive in the new market-driven livestock economies. Some will need continued support (e.g. through the provision of innovative subsidies). Others will not succeed and they will need help in transitioning to alternative livelihood options. In all this, entrepreneurship skills will be crucial. For example, those moving out of livestock keeping could, in some environments in West Africa, be assisted to benefit from payments for ecosystem services (PES), while others may seek employment in other sectors.

2.1 Facilitating economies of scale and link to higher value markets

Low volumes, variable quality, seasonality, high transactions costs, poor market information and a limited ability to meet the quality standards of specific markets represent major bottlenecks for smallholder livestock keepers. Although local market outlets exist in West Africa, the best business opportunities often lie with livestock keepers who can organize themselves to exploit economies of scale. Promising alternatives include contract farming arrangements with large farms or marketing/processing agents, voluntary producer groups and marketing cooperatives. Capacity building and the organization of producer groups can help both livestock keepers and input/service suppliers adjust to a more commercial and competitive business environments and access more demanding markets.

2.2 Improving smallholder access to inputs, advisory services and finance

Since the demise of heavily subsidized public input delivery systems and agricultural development banks, many smallholder farmers and livestock keepers have been left with inadequate and costly access to basic services. The private sector has taken up part of the slack, but has an understandable bias towards servicing larger commercial farms and those located in regions favored by good agro-climatic conditions, infrastructure and market access.

Recent years have seen new innovations in the development of public-private partnerships (e.g. loan guarantees to private banks that lend to smallholder farmers), farmer cooperatives, NGO involvement in social enterprise (e.g. as franchised suppliers of veterinary services), credit and training programmes for small businesses that deliver inputs and services (e.g. AGRA) and the use of smart subsidies. Most of these experiments have focused on crop agriculture.

WALIC will explore models that can be applied or adapted for livestock in the West African setting and can be scaled up to achieve the levels of support needed by large numbers of livestock keepers. Interventions will seek to enhance the capacities of livestock producers as well as the input and advisory services providers and professionals involved in the value chain. The focus will be on identifying promising models and facilitating platforms to co-create arrangements or partnerships to pursue business opportunities. For example franchised agro-vet models, such as those being tested in East Africa (e.g. SIDAI[2]), will be explored for use in the delivery of feed, animal health, breeding and other advisory services. A critical capacity development focus here will be on innovative value chain financing and enhancing the business capacity of key livestock value chain actors.

2.3 Attracting youth and new entrants to livestock farming as a business

How can more young people be motivated to take up animal agriculture as a business? Providing attractive new business opportunities would help, but it is still necessary to determine what kinds of schooling, specialized training and support (e.g. young farmers’ clubs, vocational training programmes) will be needed.

School curricula are often biased against agriculture, influencing youth to seek other professions. How can WALIC partner with educators and other organizations such as ANAFE (African Network for Agriculture, Agro-forestry and Natural Resources Education[3]) to overcome the youth and agriculture challenge? Our aim is to create a future generation of high calibre employees (regardless of whether they land in CBOs/NGOs, private or public sector), entrepreneurs and employers running successful livestock small and medium enterprises (SMEs). WALIC will support postgraduate and specialized training and retraining programmes in livestock and business/entrepreneurship under this theme. Various communications approaches will be used to create interest among today’s youth in livestock value chain careers.

2.4 Facilitating development of specialist national institutes to address regional challenges

As a Centre of Excellence, WALIC does not need extensive laboratories or a large number of staff. Instead, it will identify existing national institutions and designate them as hubs for specific technical research. These hubs will serve as satellite/network affiliate facilities in NARIs and universities in the region and at other IARCs. The Centre will, in collaboration with host institutions, mobilize resources to strengthen these facilities as part of its institutional capacity development. These facilities will in turn support livestock R & D as well as specialized capacity development in the region. The facilities will include feed nutrition labs, veterinary labs, genetics/genomics facilities, GIS/spatial analysis, and policy analysis, among others.

All capacity development interventions in the thematic area will be underpinned by a focus on improving system functionality – of individual institutions as well as of livestock value chains. The development of leadership and management of institutions involved in livestock R&D to make them more proactive and responsive will be a key focus. In this regard, the thematic area will invest in empowering stakeholders to be agents of transformation in their own right.

[1]AU-NEPAD, 2010