Science and advocacy: finding the right balance

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Over the last seven years, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been testing a new approach to evidence based advocacy through the Global Sustainable Livestock Advocacy for Development (GLAD) project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Initiated in 2016, it makes the case for livestock systems to be significant parts of the development portfolios of investors, donors and policymakers in low- and middle-income countries.

GLAD works with partners in and outside the livestock sector to help promote durable solutions for environmentally responsible, healthy and safe livestock development; to arm change-makers with credible evidence; to help build coalitions of livestock stakeholders, especially those of the South; to facilitate more productive and balanced conversations about the roles of livestock; and to spur responsible and productive collective action.

The approach and focus have evolved as we have learned to carry out evidence-based advocacy.

In this blog post, Michael Victor, ILRI’s head of communication and knowledge management, and Cynthia Mugo, ILRI’s policy and engagement stakeholder advisor, share some of this learning, and also introduce the new exciting phase which takes ILRI and livestock advocacy in low- and middle-income countries in exciting new directions.

While livestock are often seen to be at the epicentre of some of the world’s biggest challenges—unhealthy diets, climate change, pandemic threats, biodiversity losses, environmental damage—in low- and middle-income countries, livestock systems are seen in much more positive ways, providing a wide range of development outcomes such as better nutrition for women and children, better incomes for smallholders, job opportunities for youth, greater empowerment for women, and resilience and adaptation to climate change.

Nevertheless, it is clear they must be included—and constructively debated—in discussions to create a fairer and more sustainable future.

Feeding and informing these debates to bring evidence and balance have been at the heart of the GLAD project.

As we look forward to 2025, this current phase of the project (2023–25) targets robust evidence, compelling communication, stakeholder brokerage and policy engagement to inform global discourses around livestock, contribute to positive policy environments and help to grow financial investments in sustainable livestock solutions that deliver food security, climate adaptation, livelihoods and nutrition outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

Photo: A family leads goats out for grazing in Borana, Ethiopia (credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet)

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