A recent meeting of the People Livestock and Environment (PLE) research theme of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) underlined the creative capacity and strong potential of team members. There is enough spark, flair and daring in the pool to embark on ambitious and relevant initiatives for the future of livestock, environment and crucially the people. The meeting took place from 12 to 13 December 2011 at the ILRI-Ethiopia campus in Addis Ababa. Under a broad agenda of change, it aimed to share ideas and information about the upcoming work of ILRI and the PLE team in the emerging CGIAR Consortium Research Programs (‘CRPs’). The CRPs are intended to be the main modality for all CGIAR centers and imply significant changes in the way ILRI plans, executes and manages its research. Besides the CRP discussions, an important part of the meeting was to identify promising ‘big research ideas’ that the PLE team could develop in the coming year.
Prior to the forward-looking big idea discussions, the team also organized a light competition to elect the most important PLE achievement of 2011. Five team members introduced their highlight of 2011 – after which a small vote was organized to select the most striking highlight. The winner was Silvia Silvestri’s work on payments for environmental services. On the second day, a special session called ‘PLE’s got talent’ brought together eight presenters to introduce a big idea that in their eyes was worth developing into a large proposal. The eight ideas were:
- A large proof of concept to test carbon sequestration and ecosystem service schemes in rangelands (proposed by Mario Herrero)
- A project to reduce volatility and increase the resilience of pastoral drylands (proposed by Jan de Leeuw)
- A wide-ranging study of different development paradigms applied to the livestock sector (proposed by Alan Duncan)
- A project on the efficient uses of biomass in semi-arid areas as one of the critical areas in sustainable livestock management (proposed by Amare Haileslassie)
- Investigating ways that Eastern African highland products could be branded and exploited by smallholder producers (proposed by Tilahun Amede)
- Exploring linkages between green economy concepts and approaches and livestock systems and services (proposed by Silvia Silvestri)
- An initiative to improve the characterization of forage diversity and ILRI’s genebank (proposed by Alexandra Jorge)
- A comparative study of policies and approaches to livestock development and appropriate pathways to the intensification of smallholder agriculture (proposed by Mario Herrero)
These eight ideas were distilled from a list of 17 ideas in total collected online via Survey Monkey in preparation for the PLE meeting. They were further discussed at an ILRI management retreat from 18-20 December.
Mario Herrero, one of the contenders, explains what happened in the process and his perspective of PLE’s future…
Will the big ideas survive the funding trial stage?