Community addresses critical data topics for livestock development
Report back from LD4D Community Meeting, 26-30 September 2022
By Vanessa Meadu and Karen Smyth
This year’s Livestock Data for Decisions community meeting brought together over 200 people from 33 countries working to improve data and analysis for better decisions in the livestock sector. Participants engaged with 8 sessions over 5 days, on livestock data topics including environment, economics, gender, ontologies, and pastoralist systems. These sessions offered a platform for participants to share their diverse experiences and expertise, identify data gaps, and highlight areas for further discussion and development.
Community members also had the opportunity to connect directly with each other, using the LD4D Braindate platform. In total 28 peer-to-peer learning conversations took place, resulting in 155 hours of learning. We hope to use Braindate again later in the year to spark further conversations and new connections.
How we got here and where we’re going
The meeting was opened with a brief recap of the LD4D journey so far. Since the community’s inception in 2017, LD4D has evolved into a network of over 700 individuals, with activities centred around peer-to-peer learning, knowledge exchange and thematic working groups. The current set of working groups is guided by themes identified by the community. These include decision makers data needs, livestock ontologies, gender & livestock data, livestock & environment data, and sharing data with livestock farmers. To date, these groups have mostly held discussions to share knowledge and identify common challenges. The LD4D community meeting features the latest insights from many of these groups.
LD4D is guided by a Steering Committee, which recently met to discuss strategies and priorities. Steering Committee Chair Andrew Bisson (USAID) shared the vision LD4D’s next steps. To start with, a Theory of Change has been developed which is meant to ensure that the Community’s activities align with strategic goals, including becoming more demand driven. As well, LD4D have commissioned a study on Livestock Decision Makers’ Data Needs. Findings to date will soon be shared with the Community, including insights and approaches to understanding decision makers needs. As a follow up, the Secretariat will develop a short questionnaire to understand what decision makers the network is supporting, and how we can improve on this – this will soon be shared with the community.
LD4D also has plans to reinvigorate its Working Groups; the ambition is for community members to collaborate on solutions that are both concrete and demand-driven. Finally, there will soon be a call for new Steering Committee Members, particularly from the private sector. Stay tuned!
Session summaries and next steps
Opening Plenary: Navigating from evidence to engagement in livestock research
When working with livestock data and evidence, we cannot avoid engaging with certain controversies or debates around livestock and issues like diets, climate, environment and livelihoods. In our opening plenary, community leaders discussed the opportunities, pitfalls and lessons for evidence-based engagement. This raises the question: what is our role (as scientists, funders, project implementers, or policy makers) in engaging with tricky topics? And how can we responsibly inform discussions using data and evidence? Panel members were Shirley Tarawali (ILRI), Anne Mottet (FAO), Bernard Kimoro (Kenya State Department for Livestock), Gareth Salmon (SEBI-Livestock) and Tara Garnett (University of Oxford). They shared their experiences, lessons and insights for moving forward. Despite the many challenges around collecting and presenting data, researchers, policy-makers, and funders can work together to foster productive conversations around livestock, close the knowledge gaps and progress towards a more sustainable livestock sector. Critically examining data and evidence and questioning the biases that might be present in existing research can help reduce the polarised debates about livestock, while telling values based stories can make messages more compelling.
Workshop: How can data empower environmentally responsible livestock development?
This interactive workshop explored how different groups can support each other with environmental data and evidence for better decisions in the livestock sector. The session brought together people who are implementing livestock development projects, data collectors and analysts, environmental modellers and funders.
Preliminary session findings
- Tools are available to support better decision making
- Need to consider interaction between tools and their results
- Some concern about the user friendliness of tools
- Multi-variate assessments should be encouraged
- Funders suggested that the community needs to identify critical gaps in tools to help steer investment
- Data often exists, but it is not FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable)
- Need for increased capacity in existing stakeholder organisations to curate data
- Incentivise data collection, curation and interpretation (demonstrate value)
- “Lack of global data standards” or “Flexibility is key”
- There are ongoing challenges with input metrics in LMICs
- Private sector are interested in data to understand markets
- Importance of building trust in data sharing
What can community members do to improve the data?
- Presented and continued the discussion at Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL)
- Now producing a network analysis of findings and exploring future collaborations.
Launch of the Livestock Project Portal
Who is working on what and where? Alap Mehta and Louise Donnison (SEBI-Livestock) presented the new and improved Livestock Project Portal, designed to support more coordinated investments in the livestock sector. The map displays key information on over 30 years of livestock projects: where they are, what they are about, and what data they possess, and can be updated to reflect new activities.
- There is a demand for data and tools to support decision makers and investment coordination
- Different users may have slightly different needs depending on whether an implementing partner or donor
- The scope and categorisation of data is important, e.g. crop data might contain feed data or human data might contain zoonoses.
- Representatives from FAO, World Bank and donor coordination groups commented that the tool is useful for addressing various information requirements and should be further developed based on feedback.
- Review community feedback and prioritise feature requests; chart out a development roadmap
- Review different data sources for additional project data breadth e.g. private sector and depth e.g. donor sites. Work closely with IATI to maximize use of their data
- In 3-6 months release a new version of the dashboard to be communicated to the community in meantime if you wish to discuss the portal, please get in touch with Louise Donnison and Alap Mehta
Decision making in pastoralist systems: Data challenges and solutions
Through a case study approach, this session explored the data challenges in supporting decision making in pastoralist systems and highlighted emerging solutions to overcome some of the data gaps. With presentations from Michael MacLeod (SRUC), Erwann Fillol and Cherif Assane Diallo (Action Contre la Faim), and Mark Lawrence (Food Economy Group) .
- Digital tools for pastoral systems have different purposes and different end users. Some are designed to support policy makers while some could be useful to pastoralists themselves. In both cases it is important that end-users have some stake in the design of tools (co-creation) so that the data they generate is fully relevant. Increasing technological opportunities could make pastoralism more attractive to the younger generations
- Collecting data in pastoral systems is expensive and achieving widespread spatial coverage is challenging. This calls for smart approaches to extrapolate from the data we have using statistical approaches combined with better use of earth observation and non-conventional data sources e.g. crowd sourced data, social media feeds etc.
- Main data gaps include: feed demand and supply, cattle density and movement estimations.
- No specific next steps were discussed although participants appreciated LD4D’s role in showcasing the pastoral data work and helping to build connections among developers.
Supporting Investments in Animal Health Using Economic Analysis
The Global Burden of Animal Diseases (GBADs) programme will provide a powerful basis for evidence-based decision-making in animal health, livestock production and the livestock sector in general. It will achieve this through presenting the animal health burden in standardised terms of its economic components: production loss, expenditure, and trade. This session shared progress from the GBADs programme in terms of methods; data needs; information at global, regional, and country level; and education. Discussions touched on areas of overlap or potential collaboration with the LD4D community.
Livestock data, FAIR and Ontologies: what are the obstacles and solutions?
This session explored why so many of us are finding it so hard to implement standards our livestock data projects. This includes FAIR (findability, accessibility, interoperability, and reusability) as well as standard terms or ontologies. In this session we heard from Ruthie Musker (CABI), who are developing guidance for implementing FAIR on livestock projects.
- Implementing FAIR and ontologies is challenging, may other sectors e.g. crops have lessons that can be learnt by the livestock community
- Having a clear purpose and goal for implementing a standard is key
- Communities of practice such as LD4D are instrumental, as standards are a collaborative effort.
- Through the interactive session a problem statement was explored and what materialised was the diverse views on the problem being solved, whose problem it was as well as the ultimate beneficiary.
- Lack of standards impacted everyone from the data scientist struggling with harmonizing data to a policy maker struggling with different definitions for the same term.
- There was clear interest in follow up activities.
- The results from the session will be analysed and in particular the problem statements reviewed and summarised for communication to the community.
- The suggestions for follow up events will be reviewed and another community event planned in the next 3- months to move forward this area. If you are interested in helping shape that session get in touch with Louise Donnison.
Who benefits within livestock value chains? A closer look at measuring gender disaggregated outcomes
This discussion, hosted by the LD4D Gender community, explored how livestock projects can measure gender impacts beyond simply “reaching” women. Speakers shared examples and practical elements of monitoring benefit, and its relationship with common livestock project goals and women’s empowerment. Given the importance of qualitative data to understanding gender dynamics, where was also an introductory session on collecting qualitative data. With presentations from Hazel Malapit (IFPRI), Holly Hufnagel and Emma Alegi (FAO), and Katie Adam (EPIC Scotland).
- Livestock project gender goals can be classified using the Reach, Benefit, Empower, Transform framework, which can inform which indicators to monitor. Reaching women does not necessarily benefit them, and benefiting them does not necessarily empower them.
- Households do not function as a single unit. Collecting gender-disaggregated data at the individual level is necessary to see which benefits accrue to men and which to women so that gender-disaggregated benefit can be understood and used.
- Gender and social analyses need to be planned and budgeted for, so that projects can meet the priorities of both men and women. Having a gender specialist as part of the team helps to embed gender in every stage of a project
- Mixed methods, i.e. using both quantitative and qualitative data, provide more insight into trends, allow exploration of “why” and “how” and help clarify the links between project activities and outcomes. Involving someone with social science expertise early in your project is important.
- Gender & Livestock Data Community of Practice will continue to explore how to measure gender-disaggregated benefits at different nodes of livestock value chains – contact Johanna Wong and Fiona Allan to join our monthly conversations
Enhancing drought prediction, preparation and response and climate resilience in dry areas: The scope for more and better livestock data
Hosted by the Jameel Observatory for Food Security Early Action, this session explored the current status of livestock data in East Africa (such as livestock body condition, drought related deaths, livestock diseases, milk production, livestock prices etc) and how this can be enhanced to help predict, prepare for and respond to food and climate shocks (such as droughts) in drylands. Speakers included Alan Duncan (ILRI/University of Edinburgh), Guyo Roba (Jameel Observatory), and Ruspha Banerjee (ILRI).
- Despite the importance of livestock to pastoral food security and livelihoods and as safety nets against shocks, there are significant gaps in the data collected about livestock. It is often inconsistent and subjective; and we need information about the animals themselves, the water and grazing they need, and the implications of changes on human welfare and resilience.
- Given the large and remote areas involved, we need innovate and low-cost approaches to collect the data we need.
- A priority for regional stakeholders is to look at ways to make data collection and dissemination a two-way process. They need to draw from community knowledge; and explicitly deliver information back to communities in forms they can use.
- The ideas will be fed into ongoing work by the Jameel Observatory to identify research, learning and other action interventions to tackle some of the bottlenecks and gaps identified.
Vanessa Meadu is Communications and Knowledge Exchange Specialist at SEBI-Livestock, which facilitates the LD4D Community of Practice. Karen Smyth is Deputy Director of SEBI-Livestock.