ILRI deputy director-general of research at World Bank summit makes (serious, sane, realistic) case for West African pastoralism

 

Livestock herding in Niger

Livestock herding in Niger (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Two major recent World Bank agricultural summits in Mauritania and Senegal recently urged African countries and communities in the Sahel and the international development community to help protect and expand pastoralism on behalf of the more than 80 million people living in the Sahel who rely on it as a major source of food and livelihoods.

‘. . . African agriculture employs a massive 65–70 percent of the continent’s labor force and typically accounts for 30–40 percent of GDP. It represents the single most important industry in the region, and therefore its transformation and growth is vital to reduce poverty in a region like The Sahel and avoid humanitarian crises that have all too frequently plague the region’, said Makhtar Diop, World Bank vice president for the Africa Region, who opened the Pastoralism Forum in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, on 29 Oct 2013.

The statement that follow are by John McIntire, deputy director-general—integrated sciences, at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), who gave his thoughts at one of these summits on ‘The future of West African pastoralism’.

From ILRI deputy director general John McIntire

Sustainability
• West African pastoralism is biologically and economically sustainable at current levels of animal productivity and personal incomes

• By ‘sustainable’, I mean roughly constant annual average stocking rates (in tropical livestock units [TLU]) and roughly constant rates of personal income growth from animal production

• Beyond current levels of real per capita incomes, the biological facts of pastoralism – heat, aridity, low soil fertility, sharp seasonality – make it difficult to raise productivity and incomes at current shares of livestock in total incomes

• Income can be expected to grow more rapidly among herding peoples who have moved out of pastoralism (into industry, services, and government) and this income will contribute indirectly to the viability of pastoralism per se by providing finance for growth and insurance against calamity

Why pastoralism is sustainable only at roughly constant levels
Adaptation to marginal areas
• In West Africa, pastoralism thrives in marginal areas just as it does in Australia, in the western United States, in Mongolia, in parts of Latin America and even in the Arctic Circle, because it is adapted to such areas and other sectors (arable farming) are not

• The adaptation of pastoralism to marginal areas is, unfortunately, what traps it in a low-productivity equilibrium and subjects it to catastrophic risks that are difficult to insure against

Pasture productivity
• Pasture productivity is low in pastoral areas because of heat, aridity, low soil fertility, and unusually sharp seasonality

• An important system constraint to pastoral growth is that the chief limiting resource – wet season pastures – cannot be expanded easily without inducing conflicts with arable farming

• Sown forages do not complement pastures in pastoralism, as they often do in mixed farming systems, because heat, low soil fertility and aridity make it costly to raise forage yields in pastoral areas without irrigation

• Irrigation is usually too expensive for sown forages in pastoral areas unless used for commercial dairying, which is not common in remote areas because markets are thin

• Sown forages are not a complement to wet season pastures because that is when pastures are cheapest anyway

Risks
• Associated with low-growth sustainability are high risks caused by rainfall variability, animal disease, and markets

• Periodic droughts disturb long-term growth of herds, destroying animal capital and forcing herders to restock

• However, the risks of pastoralism now appear to be less of a threat to pastoral livelihoods today than in even the recent past because of higher non-pastoral incomes (which provide diversification), better communications and cheaper transport

• Animal health is better than in the past (less trypanosomiasis because of more intensive land use; elimination of rinderpest, more veterinary services) but gains from better animal health are (partly) self-limiting because they are partly consumed by forage costs; that is, healthy animals consume more feed, causing the price of feed to rise

• The long-term shift from cattle to small ruminants will continue and this will tend to reduce income risks aggregated over time by shortening the periods in which flocks recover compared to the recovery periods of cattle

Competition in market for animal proteins
• West African price trends will be unfavourable to red meat because of faster technical changes in non-ruminant meats, so the value of ruminant sales cannot be expected to grow in real terms relative to other animal-source proteins; the constant pressure of imports harms the economic viability of pastoralism by limiting its traditional markets

A likely future
• From this reasoning – constraints to the asset base of pasture and animal capital, persistent risks and the costs of managing them, competition from other sources of protein – the quantity, quality and productivity of pastoral assets can only grow slowly in real per capita terms

• As long as population growth is vigorous, real per capita income growth is limited by growth of the capital stock in a way that is not typical of the industrial and service sectors

What can be done?
Build pastoral assets
• Defend pasture corridors against crops and towns; corridors maintain mobility and reduce risk of conflict between farmers and herders

• Build roads – roads reduce marketing costs, promote social capital, and insure against distress sales

• Make irrigation more compatible with pastoralism – one idea is to subsidize modest areas dedicated to forage reserves; another is to see that irrigation projects do not deprive pastoralists of access to dry-season water; ensure that irrigation does not aggravate vector-borne diseases of people or animals (such as Rift Valley fever)

Create social capital for pastoral peoples
• Provide free social services – education, health, social protection; they give additional incomes to pastoralists and reduce their income risks and improve life prospects for pastoral peoples outside herding …

• Give pastoralists legal entitlements to rent income (minerals, wildlife, tourism) in their regions; this is controversial and I do not wish to minimize the political problems but we know that the mechanisms for income transfers today are cheaper than ever before and those mechanisms should not be adduced as a pretext not to distribute resources regularly and transparently

• Give legal pasture land entitlements to pastoral associations but do not make them individually tradable because of the risk of land grabs

• Sell commercial index-based insurance products and link the use of those products to participatory disease surveillance via the cellular phone networks market information …

• Invest in public research – especially in veterinary epidemiology, disease surveillance, in diseases related to animal confinement and production intensification

Promote complementary private investments
• Some complementary private investments might be lightly subsidized on the grounds that subsidies contribute to maintenance of a unique livelihood and culture

• Target productive investments – in industrial feedlots, animal waste management, in peri-urban dairying – to the finishing stage of animals’ lives; such investments are crucial for expanding pastoral markets because they offer growth possibilities that other investments at earlier stages do not offer

• Ease resource flows between pastoral and non-pastoral sectors – Remittances of money and knowledge from pastoral peoples working in cities or on arable farms, or return of those people as vets, well diggers, road builders, irrigated farmers, teachers and health workers, are beneficial to total pastoral income, not by direct effects on pastoral incomes but by adapting to risks and by improving resilience

More information from John McIntire: j [dot] mcintire [at] cgiar [dot] org

Read the whole World Bank press release: West Africa: The Sahel—New push to transform agriculture with more support for pastoralism and irrigation, 27 Oct 2013.

Recycling Africa’s agro-industrial wastewaters: Innovative system is piloted for Kampala City Abattoir

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at the city abattoir in Kampala.

A holding tank for recycling wastewater at Kampala City Abattoir (photo credit: ILRI/Albert Mwangi).

Note: This post was developed by Bio-Innovate communications officer Albert Mwangi.

A clamor to improve Africa’s agricultural value chains by greater industrialization of many of Africa’s agricultural processes was heard often at the just-completed sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW6), held in Accra 15–20 Jul 2013 and organized by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa. Most African nations are already pushing to add value to their primary agricultural commodities by supporting the establishment of relevant production and manufacturing processes and industries. Their aim is to transform their role as producers of primary agricultural commodities, such as whole raw coffee beans, into exporters of near-finished agricultural products, such as finely graded and ground coffees, thus earning more from their agriculture sectors.

Several of Africa’s livestock-based economies are working to add value to their production of leather. Rather than drying the skins and hides of slaughtered domestic animals and selling these as is, the skins and hides in addition are softened, graded and cut for various products, and in some cases used to produce finished leather products for export. While economically desirable, the production and manufacturing processes employed in this kind of industrialization can pose significant environmental risks, in this case, for example, by contaminating and/or polluting riverine eco-systems, water bodies and groundwater sources with heavy metals and other toxic substances.

Last week, Nigerian blogger Bunmi Ajilore, an advocate of sustainable agriculture and environmental justice, gave a succinct description of the public health hazards as well as benefits of using wastewater in agricultural activities (The use of wastewater in agriculture: The nagging dilemma, posted on his EcoAgriculturist Blog and reposted on the FARA–AASW Blog).

A research-for-development program based in eastern Africa known as ‘Bio-resources Innovations Network for Eastern Africa Development’, or Bio-Innovate for short, is working to deliver innovations in the recycling of agro-wastewater from industrial processes. A pilot project being implemented in Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, for example, is working to develop safe and sustainable agro-processes for waste treatment and these will soon be scaled out to other agro-industries in the eastern Africa region.

The city abattoir in Kampala, Uganda, a partner in this Bio-Innovate project, illustrates ways in which the project is helping to make recycling processes both safe and sustainable. These processes are being integrated in ways to, simultaneously, reduce pollution, generate energy and recover nutrients from agro-process wastewaters.

Wastewater recycling at the city abattoir in Kampala
A 2005 publication by Joseph Kyambadde (Integrated Process for Sustainable Agro-process Waste Treatment and Climate Change Mitigation in Eastern Africa) showed that a good number of industrial activities in this region release inadequately treated wastewaters into the environment. The study further indicated that effluent from Kampala City Abattoir significantly harms the ecology and water quality of Lake Victoria’s Inner Murchison Bay, source of Kampala’s drinking water.

The abattoir has a slaughter capacity of 500–600 cattle and 200–300 goats/sheep per day, with an estimated wastewater production of 200-400 m3 per day. This wastewater effluent generated by the abattoir is a major factor in nutrient enrichment and oxygen depletion in Lake Victoria.

Researchers at Uganda’s Makerere University, who are implementing this project, are working with staff of Kampala City Abattoir to create a ‘value-addition chain’ that involves bioconversion of slaughter wastes to produce biogas and production of nutrient-rich slurry for use in hydroponic systems, where plants are grown without soil, and as bio-fertilizer. In a pilot plant that has been set up, effluent from the abattoir is first treated in anaerobic and aerobic sequencing batch reactor (SBRs) digesters; the resulting digestate is separated into two components: a nutrient-rich sludge that will be converted to bio-fertilizer and treated effluent that has a reduced organic load. This effluent can then be used to cultivate vegetables, flowers and animal fodder in a hydroponic system constructed in an artificial wetland. The treated wastewaters have great potential also for industrial use in cleaning the slaughtering areas, animal storage facilities and public toilets. This system combines bio-digestion of waste to reduce the organic load and generate biogas and electricity; utilization of nutrient-rich effluent for hydroponics; and artificial wetlands to further clean the effluent before release into the environment. This integrated system not only is an innovative way to manage and recycle wastewater sustainably but also provides people with sufficient incentives for such recycling.

The biogas and electricity generated by this integrated wastewater management / recycling system can be used as an alternative energy source, and so help reduce deforestation, which generates the greenhouse gases causing climate change. As noted, other products generated by the system can be used as affordable bio-fertilizer. And of course a further benefit is better protection of freshwater resources.

By treating agro-process waste in such an integrated way, this project is helping Kampala City Abbattoir to protect Uganda’s environment and livestock livelihoods alike. It is the aim of Bio-Innovate and its Ugandan colleagues to replicate this pilot system in suitable places elsewhere on the continent to help Africa’s expanding agro-industries make safer and better use of their wastewater.

About Bio-Innovate
Bio-Innovate makes use of advanced biosciences both to increase efficiencies in agro-processing and to make more sustainable use of local bio-resources. The program is based at the Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI website). For further information, contact Albert Mwangi, Bio-Innovate communications officer, at a.mwangi [at] cigar.org

About AASW6
FARA website’s 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), in Accra, Ghana, included marketplace exhibitions (15–20 Jul 2013), side events on sub-themes (15–16), a ministerial roundtable alongside a Ghana Day (17 Jul), plenary sessions (18–19) and a FARA Business Meeting (20 Jul). The discussions were followed on Twitter (search for #AASW6) and blogged about on the FARA-AASW6 blog.

Lowering the ‘water footprint’ of livestock products

vietnam fodder10_lo

A smallholder livestock farm in Dak Nong Province, Vietnam. Animals raised in mixed systems have a much lower water footprint on surface and groundwater bodies than those in industrialized farming systems (Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT).

A leading researcher in water resources says that the efficiency of water use in smallholder livestock systems in Africa could be raised significantly through such means as reducing levels of concentrate feed used in livestock feeding systems, raising more livestock in drylands unsuitable for crop farming, and greater cooperation between livestock sector players and water management experts.

Arjen Hoekstra, a professor in water management from the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, made these remarks during a ‘Livestock live talk’ on ‘The water footprint of livestock products’ at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 7 Feb 2013.

According to Hoekstra, every commodity has a water footprint –‘the volume of fresh water that is used to produce the commodity, summed over the various steps of the production chain’. This footprint includes when and where the water was used and the temporal and spatial dimensions of the water used.

About 4% of the global water footprint comes from domestic water use, but by far most of the world’s water footprint – 96% – is ‘invisible’ and is associated with agricultural and industrial products bought in markets.

‘Ninety-two per cent of humanity’s water footprint comes from agricultural production, and animal production is responsible for 29% of the water footprint of the global agricultural sector,’ said Hoekstra. Agriculture-related water use inefficiencies in developing countries contribute to a farming water footprint that is much larger in these countries than in developed countries.

Hoekstra presented results from a series of studies that looked at the globalization of water, the water footprint of animals and what can be done to reduce it. These studies focus on components of water consumption and water pollution in producing market commodities, including the volume of rain, surface or ground water evaporated or incorporated into a product and the volume of polluted water resulting from the processes of producing specific commodities.

His results show that in food production, animal products such as beef, poultry and pork had a consistently higher footprint than crops such as wheat and soybean.

‘The higher water footprint of animal products is mostly related to the origin and composition of animal feeds and the feed conversion efficiency’, said Hoekstra. ‘Whether concentrates are organic or conventional determines the pollution-related water footprint of the feed.’

Hoekstra noted that animals raised in grazing and mixed systems had a much lower water footprint on surface and groundwater bodies than those in industrialized farming systems. ‘Even though the conversion of feed to livestock product (milk or meat) improves as one moves from grazing to industrial systems, this is at the cost of more high-nutrient concentrate feed, which has a larger water footprint than roughages,’ he said.

Water footprint assessment is a growing field. ‘In future’, Hoekstra said, ‘stakeholders have the challenge of coming up with shared terminologies and calculations for a global water footprint standard and setting up benchmarks for quantitative water footprint reduction targets.’ A Water Footprint Network that brings together academia, governments and the private and public sectors has already been established towards this end.

View Arjen Hoekstra’s presentation:

Read a related article by Jane Gitau in ILRI’s People, Livestock and Environment blog.

Ethiopian farmers to get market boost: New project to help livestock and irrigated agriculture farmers improve their livelihoods through value chain improvement

LIVES project logo

A new research for development project was launched today by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), both members of the CGIAR Consortium. Entitled ‘Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders – LIVES’, it will directly support of the Government of Ethiopia’s effort to transform smallholder agriculture to be more market-oriented.

Supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the LIVES project is jointly implemented by ILRI, IWMI, the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural research (EIAR), the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and regional Bureaus of Agriculture, Livestock Development Agencies, Agricultural Research Institutes and other development projects.

LIVES project manager, Azage Tegegne emphasized that this project is unique in that it integrates livestock with irrigated agriculture development. The project is designed to support the commercialization of smallholder agriculture by testing and scaling lessons to other parts of Ethiopia. “It is also excellent opportunity for CGIAR centres to work hand in hand with Ethiopian research and development institutions.”

Ethiopian State Minister of Agriculture H.E. Wondirad Mandefro welcomed the project, asserting that it will directly contribute to both the Growth Transformation Plan (GTP) and the Agricultural Growth Program (AGP) of the Ethiopian Government. Canadian Head of Aid, Amy Baker expects this investment to generate technologies, practices and results that can be implemented at larger scales and ultimately benefit millions of Ethiopian smallholder producers as well as the consumers of their products. Canadian Ambassador David Usher noted that the project will contribute to Ethiopia’s efforts to drive agricultural transformation, improve nutritional status and unlock sustainable economic growth. LIVES is also a reflection of Canada’s commitment to the 2012 G-8 New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security which will allow Ethiopia, donors and the private sector create new and innovative partnerships that will drive agricultural growth.

LIVES actions will take place over six years in 31 districts of ten zones in Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples and Tigray regions, where 8% of the country’s human population resides. LIVES will improve the incomes of smallholder farmers through value chains development in livestock (dairy, beef, sheep and goats, poultry and apiculture) and irrigated agriculture (fruits, vegetables and fodder).

The project, with a total investment of CAD 19.26 million, aims to directly and indirectly benefit more than 200,000 households engaged in livestock and irrigated agriculture, improve the skills of over 5,000 public service staff, and work with 2,100 value chain input and service suppliers at district, zone and federal levels.

“Projects that support local farmers can help a community in so many ways; not only by providing food and the most appropriate crops, but also by teaching long term skills that can have an impact for years to come,” said Canada Minister of International Cooperation the Honourable Julian Fantino. “The Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains project teaches smallholder farmers new agricultural techniques and provides technical assistance, training, and mentoring to government specialists. They in turn will provide production and marketing assistance to local farmers. This is a project that helps all areas of farming and agriculture development.”

The project will focus on clusters of districts, developing and improving livestock production systems and technologies in animal breeding, feed resources, animal nutrition and management, sustainable forage seed systems, sanitation and animal health, and higher market competitiveness. Potential irrigated agriculture interventions include provision of new genetic materials, development of private seedling nurseries, work on seed systems, irrigation management, water use efficiency, water management options, crop cycle management, and pump repair and maintenance.

The main components of the project are capacity development, knowledge management, promotion, commodity value chain development, and documentation of tested and successful interventions. Gender and the environment will be integrated and mainstreamed in all components of the project.

More ‘crop per drop’? Only when ‘more milk per drop’ saves the poor as well as Nile Basin waterflows

Now it is time for the herders to cool their body

Herder boys and cattle both cool their bodies in the midday heat in the Awash River in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region, posing health problems for people at such shared livestock watering sites (photo credit: ILRI).

Ten years ago, scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) established a partnership centred at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The partnership was formed to address widespread concerns that livestock consume excessive amounts of water and that livestock keeping is a major cause of water degradation. A statistic commonly reported, and believed, was that producing one kilogram of meat required 100,000 litres of water, mainly for production of livestock feed, in contrast to less than 3000 litres needed to grow most crops.

The ILRI-IWMI partners believed that these statements were neither sufficiently nuanced to note huge differences in the world’s livestock systems nor grounded in good science. But it was clear to them that if the figures were true, they needed to find ways to reduce livestock use of water resources and if the figures were not true, they needed to determine accurate estimates of water use. They were fortunate to be welcomed into the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) and the CGIAR Comprehensive Assessment of Water and Agriculture, both of which enabled the new partners to pursue research on what was quickly termed ‘livestock water productivity’ in an African context.

Many unanswered questions remain, but the following consensus emerged from the ILRI-IWMI partnership.
1. African beef production typically uses one-tenth to one-fifth the amount of water used in industrialized countries and livestock systems; 11,000–18,000 litres of water are used to produce one kilogram of beef in Africa compared to the 100,000 litres for beef production that is so often reported (see above). It is clear that industrialized livestock production systems tend to use vastly more water per unit of beef produced than Africa’s livestock keepers, who typically integrate their raising of beef stock with food cropping on small plots of land, where the livestock enhance the cropping (e.g., via manure for fertilizing the soils and draught power for ploughing the land) and the cropping enhances the livestock (e.g., via the residues of grain crops used to feed the farm animals).

2. Because cattle and other livestock serve and benefit the world’s poor farmers in many ways, with meat being only one benefit that usually comes after an animal has served a long life on a farm, the water used in African smallholder livestock production systems generates many more benefits than meat alone.

3. Over the preceding half a century, much research had been conducted to increase crop water productivity, but virtually none to increase livestock water productivity. This dearth, along with the high and rising value of many animal products, suggests that returns on investments made to develop agricultural water resources for crops will be much greater if livestock are integrated in the cropping systems and factored into the water equations.

4. Finally, there still remains much room to increase livestock water productivity in Africa’s small-scale livestock production systems. Four strategies for doing this are outlined below and are included in a book that was launched earlier today in Addis Ababa.

But before we get to that press release, listen for a moment to Don Peden, a rangeland ecologist who led this research at ILRI for many years and who says the IWMI-ILRI partnership ‘was an extraordinary example of the potential for inter-centre collaboration.

I often think the partnership was as important as the research products it generated’, says Peden. ‘Many people and institutions helped make our collaborative work on water and livestock succeed. First on the list is Doug Merrey. Many of the CPWF staff made huge contributions and provided outstanding encouragement. There are too many to mention, but they include Jonathan Woolley, Alain Vidal, Seleshi Bekele, David Molden and Simon Cook.

‘We also owe a great debt to many of our partners’, Peden goes on to say. ‘This includes professors (the late) Gabriel Kiwuwa, David Mutetitka and Denis Mpairwe from Makerere University as well as Hamid Faki from Sudan’s Agricultural Research Corporation. And special mention should be made about Shirley Tarawali, now serving as ILRI’s director for Institutional Planning, who provided day-to-day encouragement and support throughout the project and made a tremendous contribution. And we also had a unique research team in ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme that made successes possible.

In brief, the interpersonal interactions among all of these people and institutions and many others made this work possible. The success of the project lies in the people, and not just in the book.’

5 key messages regarding livestock and water—excerpted in full from the livestock chapter in the new—book follow.
(1) ‘Domestic animals contribute significantly to agricultural GDP throughout the Nile Basin and are major users of its water resources. However, investments in agricultural water development have largely ignored the livestock sector, resulting in negative or sub-optimal investment returns because the benefits of livestock were not considered and low-cost livestock-related interventions, such as provision of veterinary care, were not part of water project budgets and planning. Integrating livestock and crop development in the context of agricultural water development will often increase water productivity and avoid animal-induced land and water degradation. . . .

(2) ‘Under current management practices, livestock production and productivity cannot meet projected demands for animal products and services in the Nile Basin. Given the relative scarcity of water and the large amounts already used for agriculture, increased livestock water productivity is needed over large areas of the Basin. Significant opportunities exist to increase livestock water productivity through four basic strategies. These are:
‘a) utilizing feed sources that have inherently low water costs for their production
‘b) adoption of the state of the art animal science technology and policy options that increase animal and herd production efficiencies
‘c) adoption of water conservation options
‘d) optimally balancing the spatial distributions of animal feeds, drinking water supplies and livestock stocking rates across the basin and its landscapes. . . .

(3) ‘Suites of intervention options based on these strategies are likely to be more effective than a single-technology policy or management practice. Appropriate interventions must take account of spatially variable biophysical and socio-economic conditions. . . .

(4) ‘For millennia, pastoral livestock production has depended on mobility, enabling herders to cope with spatially and temporally variable rainfall and pasture. Recent expansion of rain-fed and irrigated croplands, along with political border and trade barriers has restricted mobility. Strategies are needed to ensure that existing and newly developed cropping practices allow for migration corridors along with water and feed availability. Where pastoralists have been displaced by irrigation or encroachment of agriculture into dry-season grazing and watering areas, feeds based on crop residues and by-products can offset loss of grazing land. . . .

(5) ‘In the Nile Basin, livestock currently utilize about 4 per cent of the total rainfall, and most of this takes place in rain-fed areas where water used is part of a depletion pathway that does not include the basin’s blue water resources. In these rain-fed areas, better vegetation and soil management can promote conversion of excessive evaporation to transpiration while restoring vegetative cover and increasing feed availability. Evidence suggests that livestock production can be increased significantly without placing additional demands on river water.’

Nile

Cows on the banks of the Nile (in Luxor, Egypt) (photo on Flickr by Travis S).

Now (finally) on to that press release.

‘Tens of millions of small-scale farmers in 11 countries need improved stake in development of the Nile River Basin—News conference, Addis Ababa, 5 Nov 2012

Alan Duncan at the Quick Feeds Synthesis meeting

ILRI livestock feed specialist Alan Duncan (right), joint Basin leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme, participated in a news conference today in Addis Ababa launching a new study on the Nile Basin and poverty reduction (photo credit: ILRI/Zerihun Sewunet).

As planetary emergencies go, finding ways to feed livestock more efficiently, with less water, typically do not find their way into ‘top ten’ lists. But today that topic was part of a discussion by a group of experts gathered in the Hilton Hotel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to highlight the Nile River Basin’s potential to help 90 million people lift themselves and their families out of absolute poverty.

Despite attempts to cooperate, the 11 countries that share the Nile river, including a new nation, South Sudan, and the drought-ridden Horn of Africa, often disagree about how this precious and finite resource should be shared among the region’s some 180 million people—half of whom live below the poverty line—who rely on the river for their food and income.

But a new book by the CPWF argues that the risk of a ‘water war’ is secondary to ensuring that the poor have fair and easy access to the Nile. It incorporates new research to suggest that the river has enough water to supply dams and irrigate parched agriculture in all 11 countries—but that policymakers risk turning the poor into water ‘have nots’ if they don’t enact efficient and inclusive water management policies.

The authors of the book, The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, include leading hydrologists, economists, agriculturalists and social scientists. This book is the most comprehensive overview to date of an oft-discussed but persistently misunderstood river and region. To discuss the significance of the findings in the book were Seleshi Bekele Awulachew, a senior water resources and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; Simon Langan, head of the East Africa and Nile Basin office of IWMI; and Alan Duncan, a livestock scientist at ILRI.

Drawing water from the Nile

Drawing water from the Nile (photo on Flickr by Challenge Program on Water and Food).

Smallholder farmers need improved stake in Nile’s development
There is enough water in the Nile basin to support development, but small farmers are at risk of being marginalized, says the new book, which finds that the Nile River, together with its associated tributaries and rainfall, could provide 11 countries—including a new country, South Sudan, and the drought-plagued countries of the Horn of Africa—with enough water to support a vibrant agriculture sector, but that the poor in the region who rely on the river for their food and incomes risk missing out on these benefits without effective and inclusive water management policies.

The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods, published by CPWF, incorporates new research and analysis to provide the most comprehensive analysis yet of the water, agriculture, governance and poverty challenges facing policymakers in the countries that rely on the water flowing through one of Africa’s most important basins. The book also argues that better cooperation among the riparian countries is required to share this precious resource.

This book will change the way people think about the world’s longest river’, said Vladimir Smakhtin, water availability and access theme leader at IWMI and one of the book’s co-authors.

Agriculture, the economic bedrock of all 11 Nile countries, and the most important source of income for the majority of the region’s people, is under increased pressure to feed the basin’s burgeoning population—already 180 million people, half of which live below the poverty line. According to the book, investing in a set of water management approaches known as ‘agricultural water management’, which include irrigation and rainwater collection, could help this water-scarce region grow enough food despite these dry growing conditions.

‘Improved agricultural water management, which the book shows is so key to the region’s economic growth, food security and poverty reduction, must be better integrated into the region’s agricultural policies, where it currently receives scant attention’, says Seleshi Bekele, senior water resources and climate specialist at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and one of the book’s co-authors. ‘It is tempting for these governments to focus on large-scale irrigation schemes, such as existing schemes in Sudan and Egypt, but more attention must also be paid to smaller, on-farm water management approaches that make use of rainwater and stored water resources such as aquifers.’

Lack of access to water is another area that could negatively impact the poor, according to the book. In the Nile Basin, poor people live further away from water sources than the wealthy, which forces them to travel longer distances to collect water. Women that are responsible for collecting water for their households and smallholder farmers who rely on rainwater to irrigate their crops would therefore benefit from policies that give them greater access to water in the Nile Basin.

We need to look beyond simply using water for crop production if we are to comprehensively address the issues of poverty in the region’, says David Molden, IMWI’s former director general and one of the book’s co-authors. ‘Water is a vital resource for many other activities, including small-scale enterprises like livestock and fisheries. This should not be forgotten in the rush to develop large-scale infrastructure.’

Improving governance, especially coordination among Nile Basin country governments, is another crucial aspect of ensuring that the poor benefit from the basin’s water resources. The book argues that the establishment of a permanent, international body—the Nile Basin Commission—to manage the river would play a key role in strengthening the region’s agriculture, socio-economic development and regional integration.

‘The Nile Basin is as long as it is complex—its poverty, productivity, vulnerability, water access and socio-economic conditions vary considerably’, says Molden. ‘Continued in-depth research and local analysis is essential to further understanding the issues and systems, and to design appropriate measures that all countries can sign on to.’

Interestingly, the book counters a common tendency to exaggerate reports of conflict among these countries over these complex management issues. ‘Past experience has shown that countries tend to cooperate when it comes to sharing water’, says Alain Vidal, CPWF’s director. ‘On the Nile, recent agreements between Egypt and Ethiopia show that even the most outspoken Basin country politicians are very aware that they have much more to gain through cooperation than confrontation.’

For more information, visit the website of the Challenge Program on Water and Food.

The Nile River Basin: Water, Agriculture, Governance and Livelihoods is available for purchase from Routeledge as of 5 Nov 2012. IWMI’s Addis Ababa office is donating 300 copies of the book to local water managers, policymakers and institutions in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the region. If you are interested in receiving a copy please contact Nigist Wagaye [at] n.wagaye@cgiar.org.

Notes

The CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) aims to increase the resilience of social and ecological systems through better water management for food production (crops, fisheries and livestock). The CPWF does this through an innovative research and development approach that brings together a broad range of scientists, development specialists, policymakers and communities to address the challenges of food security, poverty and water scarcity. The CPWF is currently working in six river basins globally: Andes, Ganges, Limpopo, Mekong, Nile and Volta www.waterandfood.org

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) is a nonprofit, scientific research organization focusing on the sustainable use of land and water resources in agriculture to benefit poor people in developing countries. IWMI’s mission is “to improve the management of land and water resources for food, livelihoods and the environment.” IWMI has its headquarters in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and regional offices across Asia and Africa. The Institute works in partnership with developing countries, international and national research institutes, universities and other organizations to develop tools and technologies that contribute to poverty reduction as well as food and livelihood security. www.iwmi.org

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) works with partners worldwide to enhance the roles livestock play in pathways out of poverty. ILRI research products help people in developing countries keep their farm animals alive and productive, increase and sustain their livestock and farm productivity, find profitable markets for their animal products, and reduce their risks of livestock-related diseases. ILRI is a member of the CGIAR Consortium of 15 research centres working for a food-secure future. ILRI has its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, a principal campus in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and other hubs in East, West and southern Africa and South, Southeast and East Asia. www.ilri.org

CGIAR is a global research partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development. CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. It is carried out by the 15 centers who are members of the CGIAR Consortium in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. www.cgiar.org

The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems examines how we can intensify agriculture, while still protecting the environment and lifting millions of farm families out of poverty. The program focuses on the three critical issues of water scarcity, land degradation and ecosystem services. It will also make substantial contributions in the areas of food security, poverty alleviation and health and nutrition. The initiative combines the resources of 14 CGIAR centers and numerous external partners to provide an integrated approach to natural resource management research. This program is led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). www.wle.cgiar.org

Alan Duncan is a livestock feed specialist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and joint Basin leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme (NBDC). Duncan joined ILRI in 2007 coming from the Macaulay Institute in Scotland. He has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. Livestock-water interactions are a key issue in Ethiopia, particularly in relation to competition for water between livestock feed and staple crops. This is a core research topic for the NBDC and Duncan has built on pioneering work in this field led by ILRI’s Don Peden. Duncan manages a range of research for development projects and acts as ILRI’s focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics.

 

 

Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures

Cow in Rajasthan, India

Profile of a cow kept by the Rajasthani agro-pastoralists who have inhabited India’s state of Rajasthan (‘land of kings’ or ‘colours’), from the Great Thar Desert in the northwest to the better-watered regions of the southeast, since parts of it formed the great trading and urban Indus Valley (3000-500 BC) and Harappan (1,000 BC) civilizations (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

We know that livestock produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Just how much remains somewhat contentious, with the estimated contributions of livestock to global greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 10 to 51%, depending on who is doing the analyses, and how.

A new commentary, published in a special ‘animal feed’ issue of the scientific journal Animal Feed and Technology, examines the main discrepancies between well known and documented studies such as FAO’s Livestock Long Shadow report (FAO 2006) and some more recent estimates. The authors of the commentary advocate for better documentation of assumptions and methodologies for estimating emissions and the need for greater scientific debate, discussion and scrutiny in this area.

The authors of the new article, ‘Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right,’ are a distinguished group of experts from diverse institutions working in this area, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, Rome), Wageningen University and Research Centre (Netherlands), the Food Climate Research Network at the Centre for Environmental Strategy (FCRN, University of Surrey), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (JRC, Italy), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL, Bilthoven), Aarhus University’s Department of Agroecology and Environment (Denmark), New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Wellington), the Institute Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique (France), the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada group at Lethbridge Research Centre (Alberta) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Nairobi).

This group of international scientists presents the case of one recent argument as follows.

‘In 2006, the FAO’s Livestock’s Long Shadow report (FAO, 2006), using well documented and rigorous life cycle analyses, estimated that global livestock contributes to 18% of global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions. According to the study the main contributors to GHG from livestock systems are land use change (carbon dioxide, CO2), enteric fermentation from ruminants (methane, CH4) and manure management (nitrous oxide, N2O).

‘A . . . non-peer reviewed report published by the Worldwatch Institute (Goodland and Anhang 2009) contested these figures and argued that GHG emissions from livestock could be closer to 51% of global GHG emissions. In our view, this report has oversimplified the issue with respect to livestock production. It has emphasised the negative impacts without highlighting the positives and, in doing so, has used a methodological approach which we believe to be flawed.’

Mario Herrero, lead author of the Animal Feed and Technology paper, is a systems analyst and climate change specialist working at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Herrero argues that Goodland and Anhang, while claiming in the non-scientifically peer-reviewed World Watch Magazine (which is published by Worldwatch Institute) that livestock generate 51% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions rather than the 18% reported by FAO in 2007, fail to detail the methodologies they used to come up with this new figure, fail to use those methods consistently across different sectors, and fail to follow global guidelines for assessing emissions set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol.

Furthermore, Hererro says, the World Watch authors’ solution to livestock’s contribution to global warming—’to eat less animal products, or better still, none at all’—could push some 1 billion livestock keepers and consumers living on little more than a dollar a day into even greater poverty (small livestock enterprises are the mainstay of many poor people) and severe malnourishment (milk is among the few high-quality foods readily available to many poor people, with consumption of modest quantities of dairy making the difference between health and illness, especially in children and women of child-bearing ages).

Goodland and Anhang also fail to enlarge on any counterfactuals, such as what a world without domesticated livestock would look like.

Over a billion people make a living from livestock, says ILRI director general Carlos Seré. Most of them are among the poorest of the poor. What, other than livestock keeping, would most African and Indian farming households turn to in order to meet their needs for scarce protein, fertilizer, employment, income, traction, means of saving, and insurance against crop failure?

While many of us may find the factory farming of animals in rich countries objectionable on several grounds, Seré says, we must be responsible not to conflate industrial grain-fed livestock systems of rich producers with the family farming and herding practices of hundreds of millions of poor producers, most of whom still maintain their animals not on grain but on pasture grass and other crop wastes not edible by humans.

The biggest concern of many experts regarding livestock in developing countries, Seré says, is not their impact on climate change but rather the impact of climate change on livestock production.

The hotter and more extreme tropical environments being predicted threaten not only up to a billion livelihoods based on livestock but also supplies of milk, meat and eggs among hungry communities that need these nourishing foods most. For people living in absolute poverty and chronic hunger, the solution is not to rid the world of livestock, but rather to find ways to farm animals more efficiently and profitably, as well as sustainably.

Tara Garnett, a co-author of the new paper and a research fellow at the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, in the UK, investigates issues around livestock and greenhouse gas emissions in her highly credible and readable publication Cooking up a Storm: Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Our Changing Climate (2008). Garnett, who also runs the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), which brings together nearly 2,000 individuals from a broad variety of disciplines to share information on issues relating to food and climate change, agrees with Seré on this.

By 2050, on current projections, Garnett reports, the developing world will still, on average, be eating less than half as much meat as people do in the rich world, and only a third of the milk. There is a long way to go before they catch up with developed world levels.

While there is an increasingly urgent need to reduce demand for meat and dairy products among consumers in developed countries, and also to moderate rapid growth in demand for these foods in emerging, rapidly industrializing, countries, for the world’s poorest people, small-scale livestock enterprises can increase household incomes and improve livelihoods. Greater consumption of meat and dairy products—in addition to a more diverse range of plant-based foods—can play a critical role in combatting malnutrition and enhancing nutritional status.’

Herrero and Garnett and their other co-authors conclude that ‘Livestock undoubtedly need to be a priority focus of attention as the global community seeks to address the challenge of climate change. The magnitude of the discrepancy between the Goodland and Anhang paper (2009) and widely recognized estimates of GHG from livestock (FAO, 2006), illustrates the need to provide the climate change community and policy makers with accurate emissions estimates and information about the link between agriculture and climate.

‘Improving the global estimates of GHG attributed to livestock systems is of paramount importance. This is not only because we need to define the magnitude of the impact of livestock on climate change, but also because we need to understand their contribution relative to other sources. Such information will enable effective mitigation options to be designed to reduce emissions and improve the sustainability of the livestock sector while continuing to provide livelihoods and food for a wide range of people, especially the poor. We need to understand where livestock can help and where they hinder the goals of resilient global ecosystems and a sustainable, equitable future for future generations.

‘We believe these efforts need to be part of an ongoing process, but one that is to be conducted through transparent, well established methodologies, rigorous science and open scientific debate. Only in this way will we be able to advance the debate on livestock and climate change and inform policy, climate change negotiations and public opinion more accurately.’

Read the whole post-print paper by Mario Herrero, P Gerber, T Vellinga, T Garnett, A Leip, C Opio, HJ Westhoek, PK Thornton, J Olesen, N Hutchings, H Montgomery, J-F Soussana, H Steinfeld and TA McAllister: Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right, a special issue on ‘Greenhouse Gases in Animal Agriculture—Finding a Balance between Food and Emissions’ published this month in 2011 in Animal Feed Science and Technology 166–167: 779–782 (doi: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.04.083).

Read the Goodland and Anhang article in World Watch Magazine: Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are…cows, pigs, and chickens? November/December 2009.

Improving water productivity of crop-livestock systems in drought-prone regions

Today saw the publication of a special issue of Experimental Agriculture guest edited by Tilahun Amede, Shirley Tarawali and Don Peden. It presents evidence from Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and India, and captures current understanding of strategies to improve water productivity in drought-prone crop-livestock systems.

Crop-livestock systems in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are mostly rainfall-dependent and based on fragmented marginal lands that are vulnerable to soil erosion, drought and variable weather conditions. The threat of water scarcity in these systems is real, due to expanding demand for food and feed, climate variability and inappropriate land use.

According to recent estimates, farming, industrial and urban needs in developing countries will increase water demand by 40% by 2030. Water shortage is expected to be severe in areas where the amount of rainfall will decrease due to climate change. The lack of capacity of communities living in drought-prone regions to respond to market opportunities, climatic variability and associated water scarcity also results from very low water storage facilities, poverty and limited institutional capacities to efficiently manage the available water resources at
local, national and basin scales.

The spiral of watershed degradation causes decline in water budgets, decreases soil fertility and reduces farm incomes in SSA and reduces crop and livestock water productivity. In areas where irrigated agriculture is feasible, there is an increasing demand for water and competition among different users and uses.

Strategies and policies to reduce rural poverty should not only target increasing food production but should also emphasize improving water productivity at farm, landscape, sub-basin and higher levels. In drought-prone rural areas, an increase of 1% in crop water productivity makes available at least an extra 24 litres of water a day per person. Moreover, farming systems with efficient use of water resources are commonly responsive to external and internal drivers of change.

Articles included in the issue are:

Amede, T., Tarawali, S. and Peden, D. Improving water productivity in crop livestock systems of drought-prone regions. Editorial Comment

Amede, T., Menza, M. and Awlachew, S. B. Zai improves nutrient and water productivity in the Ethiopian highlands

Descheemaeker, K., Amede, T., Haileslassie, A. and Bossio, D. Analysis of gaps and possible interventions for improving water productivity in crop livestock systems of Ethiopia

Derib, S. D., Descheemaeker, K., Haileslassie, A. and Amede, T. Irrigation water productivity as affected by water management in a small-scale irrigation scheme in the Blue Nile Basin, Ethiopia

Awulachew, S. B. and Ayana, M. Performance of irrigation: an assessment at different scales in Ethiopia

Ali, H., Descheemaeker, K., Steenhuis, T. S. and Pandey, S. Comparison of landuse and landcover changes, drivers and impacts for a moisture-sufficient and drought-prone region in the Ethiopian Highlands

Mekonnen, S., Descheemaeker, K., Tolera, A. and Amede, T. Livestock water productivity in a water stressed environment in Northern Ethiopia

Deneke, T. T., Mapedza, E. and Amede, T. Institutional implications of governance of local common pool resources on livestock water productivity in Ethiopia

Haileslassie, A., Blümmel, M., Clement, F., Descheemaeker, K., Amede, T. Samireddypalle, A., Acharya, N. S., Radha, A. V., Ishaq, S., Samad, M., Murty, M. V. R. and Khan, M. A. Assessment of the livestock-feed and water nexus across a mixed crop-livestock system’s intensification gradient: an example from the Indo-Ganga Basin

Clement, F., Haileslassie, A., Ishaq, S., Blummel, M., Murty, M. V. R., Samad, M., Dey, S., Das, H. and Khan, M. A. Enhancing water productivity for poverty alleviation: role of capitals and institutions in the Ganga Basin

Sibanda, A., Tui, S. H.-K., Van Rooyen, A., Dimes, J., Nkomboni, D. and Sisito, G. Understanding community perceptions of land use changes in the rangelands, Zimbabwe

Senda, T. S., Peden, D., Tui, S. H.-K., Sisito, G., Van Rooyen, A. F. and Sikosana, J. L. N. Gendered livelihood implications for improvements of livestock water productivity in Zimbabwe

View the full issue

Helping African herders cope with climate change

The worm-resistant red Maasai sheep of East Africa

Research groups at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are helping Maasai livestock herders in East African to retain their native 'hairless' (non-wool producing) red Maasai sheep, which are genetically resistant to infections with gastro-intestinal worms (photo credit: ILRI). 

Half of the world's livestock herders live with their animals on the vast rangelands of Africa, which comprise half of Africa's surface. Herders have always adapted to variable weather, but over the next 50 years, pastoralist areas will face more and more changes.

What’s the future for Africa’s 50 million livestock herders who live on lands too marginal for cropping as our climate changes, becomes less predictable, heats up? How can scientific research help remote pastoral communities? 

Among the poorest of the world’s poor, herders supply milk and meat not only for themselves but for large numbers of other poor people. Although their animals produce few of the greenhouse gasses harming the earth, these people will be among those most hurt by the climate changes we expect. 

Population growth and land degradation are already causing problems over much of the continent’s traditional rangelands. Many herders, having lost all their animals to droughts, are facing the end of their way of life. 

Research-based approaches for adapting to climate change, however, offer options that can help herding communities sustain at least some aspects of their pastoral livelihoods.

These options include:

  • using satellite imagery to provide the first-ever drought insurance for pastoral herders in Africa's remote regions
  • cross-breeding an indigenous disease-resistant sheep breed kept by Maasai communities with higher-producing exotic sheep to get the benefits of both
  • helping communities shift from keeping grazers, such as cattle and sheep, to browsers, such as camels and goats
  • supporting pastoralists to take advantage of local opportunities, such as shifting from herding ruminant animals to raising fish in ponds.  

The experiences in this film, alongside other initiatives will be presented by Mario Herrero, a scientist with ILRI, at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico from 29 November to 10 December 2010, to show how ILRI is applying research to help livestock-based communities cope with the effects of climate change.

Watch this new 10-minute ILRI film, Heat, Rain and Livestock: Impacts of Climate Change on Africa's Livestock Herders, to find out more.

See more of ILRI's films.

Find out more about the 2010 United Nations Climate Change conference.

See related article: New partnership launched to keep climate change from crippling food production in Africa and Asia, 19 November 2010.

Joint efforts needed to help Nepalese livestock owners combat climate change

Why is climate change so important to agriculture-based countries?

Slide from ILRI presentation made at Nepal livestock and climate change workshop in October 2010: 'Adapting livestock systems to climate change in South Asia,' by Mario Herrero, Philip Thornton and Iain Wright (Graphic credit: de Jong 2005, World Bank 2005).

Participants in a workshop on livestock and climate change held last week in Kathmandu, Nepal, have called for greater collaboration in work to help Nepalese livestock producers adapt to climate change.

At the opening session of a ‘Consultative Technical Workshop on Climatic Change: Livestock Sector Vulnerability and Adaptation in Nepal’, held 28–29 October 2010, Iain Wright, regional representative for Asia at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said that the challenges of climate change in Nepal were too great for any one organization to tackle on its own.

‘Researchers’, Wright said, ‘must work more closely with governmental, non-governmental and international organizations, as well as with aid agencies and local communities, to help Nepal reduce the vulnerability of its livestock sector, and the many people who depend on it, to climate change.

Nepal, a landlocked Himalayan country with a human population 27 million, is ranked as one of the world’s poorest countries (142 of 147) by the recent Human Development Report, with one-third of the population living below the poverty line and a per capita annual income of just US$250. More than three-quarters of the population (85%) lives in rural areas and the agricultural sector employs 66% of the labour force and contributes 38% of the country’s gross domestic product.

A ‘Climate Change Vulnerability Index’ compiled by a UK-based firm, Maplecroft, has recently placed Nepal as the world’s fourth most vulnerable country to climate change, while the country produces less than 0.025% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

Recent climate change scenarios suggest that mean temperatures in parts of Nepal are likely to rise faster than the global average, especially at higher altitudes, leading to less snow and ice. Farmers in the mountains are already feeling the effects of the higher temperatures. More climatic variability and extreme climatic events, including floods and droughts, are expected in future. Researchers anticipate an overall increase in precipitation in the region’s wet season, but a decrease in precipitation in the mid-latitude hills. Nepal’s relatively low rates of development render its population particularly vulnerable to these ongoing and future climate changes.

Nepal’s Minister for Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mrigendra K Singh Yadav, told the workshop participants that measures to adapt to climate change are necessary to protect the country’s many small-scale farmers. Tek Gurung, Director of Livestock and Fisheries with the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, called the workshop ‘a milestone’.

‘This is the first time that the main stakeholders in Nepal’s livestock development have come together with international organizations to assess the vulnerability of the livestock sector to climate change and to determine ways to increase the sector’s resilience,’ Gurung said.

‘While Nepal’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is trivial’, Wright explained, ‘it is one of the countries that will be affected most by climate change. Therefore, it does not make sense for Nepal to devote its scarce resources to research on ways to mitigate the effects of agriculture on climate change.’

‘Rather’, Wright said, ‘we urgently need to develop strategies that will allow poor Nepalese farmers and herders, who are among most vulnerable people in the world, to cope with changes in climate. We know the livestock sector will be affected by these changes, but there is a dearth of information and data on exactly what those consequences will be.'

The workshop was organized by the Nepal Agricultural Research Council in partnership with ILRI; Local Initiatives for Biodiversity, Research and Development (a non-governmental organization in Nepal); and Heifer Project International–Nepal.

See the slide presentation made at the workshop by ILRI scientists Mario Herrero, Philip Thornton and Iain Wright: Adapting livestock systems to climate change in South Asia.

Placing ecosystems thinking at the heart of global food security

Rajasthan goats (Renoje Village)

Goat herd resting before going out for a day's grazing in Renoje Village, 1.5 hours drive south from Udaipur, in southern Rajasthan. ILRI scientists are conducting case studies on the use of stover and other crop wastes for feeding ruminant farm animals in India and Bangladesh. The residues of grain crops after harvesting, which make up more than half the feed for camels, cattle, buffaloes, goats and sheep, are vital to animal husbandry in these and many other developing countries (photo by ILRI/MacMillan).

Placing ecosystems at the heart of food security efforts can improve the productivity, resiliency and long-term sustainability of food supply systems. This is one of the key messages emerging from a new multidisciplinary collaboration led by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The collaboration brings together organizations working in the fields of livestock, fisheries, environment, water and agriculture to synthesize knowledge into options to alleviate hunger.

Ecosystems provide food both in its natural state (e.g., capture fisheries, forest products) and in more managed landscapes (e.g., crop systems, livestock, aquaculture). Climate change and overexploitation, especially of water resources, threaten the productivity of ecosystems. And because most of the world’s poor are directly dependent on both natural and managed ecosystems for food, they are the most vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate-related shocks.

Ecosystems also provide a host of services fundamental to food and water security. In particular, many ecosystems provide water management functions that are crucial to a stable food supply—these include water storage, purification and regulation functions as well as flood control. Ecosystems also need water to support their functioning, but many countries currently don't consider ecosystems a water user at all, much less a 'privileged' water user.

To keep up with food demand, water withdrawals from rivers and lakes will have to increase by an estimated 70–90% by 2050 and large tracts of forest and grassland will have to be converted to agriculture. The ecological fall-out from such a course of action would be catastrophic. Continued decreases in ecosystem services have already begun to hurt agricultural productivity.

Only by treating healthy ecosystems as fundamental to healthy food systems will it be possible to create systems that are not only more sustainable, but also more productive, resilient and diverse.

What this will take
(1) Shift the focus of agricultural development from protecting discrete ecosystems to managing larger landscapes.
Address these larger landscapes as bundles of interlinked services and ecosystems supporting food production. Expand the role of ministries of environment in bringing ecosystem services to the forefront of food security policy and planning.

(2) Ensure water for ecosystems and ecosystems for water.
Adequately value ecosystems services when allocating resources and planning water and land development. Avoid making unintended tradeoffs—particularly those that harm food and water security. Consider quality as well as quantity requirements of different water users to reveal options for reducing fresh-water withdrawals from the environment and getting more benefit per drop.

(3) Do more than improve 'water efficiency' in agriculture.
Without attending to allocation of water 'saved' to downstream ecosystems, improving water efficiency can end up doing more harm than good. Widen the focus on crop-based systems to include forests, livestock and fish. Place greater emphasis on managing water stored in the soil profile.

These three recommendations are described in detail in a forthcoming report, 'Ecosystems for water and food security', whose development was coordinated by the International Water Management Institute. Contributors to the report include: the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Challenge Program on Water and Food, EcoAgriculture Partners, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Environment and Society at the University of Essex, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute for Land, Water and Society at the Charles Sturt University, the International Soil Reference and Information Centre–World Soil Information, the Participatory Ecological Land Use Management Association, the Stockholm Environment Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the UNEP-DHI Centre for Water and Environment, WorldFish, the Wageningen University and Research Centre.

A flyer with this information, Emerging Thinking on Ecosystems, Water and Food Security, is being distributed at a side event organized for Tuesday, 2 November 2010, 1–3pm, by UNEP and Global Water Partnership—'Green economy: Promote water as a key element for sustainable national development'—at a Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change being held in The Hague from 31 October to 5 November 2010.

Other livestock-related side events of interest include the following:
>>> Tue, 2 Nov 2010, 1–3pm: 'Livestock and climate change' organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
>>> Wed, 3 Nov 2010, 6–8pm: 'Livestock, climate change and food security' organized by the ETC Foundation, Heifer International and other groups
>>> Fri, 5 Nov 2010, 1–3pm: 'CGIAR Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security' organized by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

Market opportunities for poor Ugandan livestock farmers mapped for first time

Map Showing Economic Opportunities for Poor Livestock Farmers in Uganda

This map from Mapping a Better Future combines poverty rates with milk production data and shows only the poverty rates for administrative areas with milk surplus. By knowing which areas display both high poverty rate and milk surplus, Uganda’s leaders can better provide market opportunities for poorer dairy farmers and target infrastructure investments.

The percentage of the population living below the poverty line is shown from
>dark green (lowest) to > light green (low) to > beige (medium) to > tan (high) to > dark brown (highest).
Gray areas = no data
White areas = outside milk surplus area
Diagonal blue lines = major national parks and wildlife reserves (over 50,000 ha)

To see the original of this and other maps, go here.

A new
 set of maps illustrating possible market 
opportunities for Uganda’s livestock farmers living 
in poverty is being unveiled today. The maps compare for the first time
 2005 poverty levels with livestock data from the 
2002 population and housing census and the 2008 
national livestock census.

‘Seven out of ten households in Uganda own 
livestock, making it an integral part of Ugandans’ 
diet, culture and income,’ said Hon. Hope R.
Mwesigye, Ugandan Minister of Agriculture, 
Animal Industry and Fisheries and co-author of 
Mapping a Better Future: Spatial Analysis and 
Pro-Poor Livestock Strategies in Uganda. ‘The
 maps are meant to guide the government’s future 
investments to reduce poverty while strengthening
the livestock sector.’

Hon. Syda N.M. Bbumba, Uganda Minister of
 Finance, Planning and Economic Development, 
said, ‘Examining the spatial relationships between 
poverty, livestock systems, location of livestock 
services such as dairy cooling plants, and livestock 
disease hotspots can provide new evidence-based 
information to help craft more effective 
investments and poverty reduction efforts.
While Uganda’s total agricultural output has declined, livestock figures have increased dramatically in the last 
decade due to strong domestic and regional demand for livestock products, according to the report.
‘Increased livestock production carries both economic opportunities for Ugandans and greater risk for 
transmission of animal diseases,’ said Nicholas Kauta, Commissioner of Livestock Health and Entomology at 
the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries. ‘The maps included in this report will help
Uganda’s leaders understand market opportunities and, at the same time, target at-risk areas for disease 
outbreaks with appropriate health intervention plans.’
For instance, maps showing milk surplus and deficit areas can highlight geographic differences in market 
opportunities for poor dairy farmers. According to the maps in the report, about 3.5 million people live in 
sub-counties identified as producing more milk than their residents consume, and approximately 0.8 million
poor people live in areas where the demand for milk is greater than supply. This information can help 
policymakers, dairy researchers and development agencies gauge market opportunities and invest in 
infrastructure where it is needed the most.
‘By combining social data and livestock information and analyzing the map overlays, decision-makers from 
different sectors can work together to identify solutions to complex problems facing communities such as 
diseases that affect both people and livestock,’ said Norbert Henninger, senior associate at the World Resources Institute and co-author 
of the report.
John B. Male-Mukasa, executive director of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, said, ‘Uganda’s government 
acknowledges the importance of livestock to the nation’s economic development and food security, and as 
part of its 2010–2015 National Development Plan, it plans to invest in improved livestock breeds, water
infrastructure and livestock land management. The maps in this report will be useful in identifying the 
regions where investment is needed most dearly.’
Mapping a Better Future is the third installment in a series of publications using maps and spatial analysis to 
reduce poverty in Uganda, following two previous reports that targeted wetlands and water and sanitation.

Download the publication here.

The following institutions were involved in the production of this publication.
The Uganda Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries provides an 
enabling environment in which a profitable, competitive, dynamic and sustainable agricultural and agro-industrial 
sector can develop.
The Uganda Bureau of Statistics is the principal data-collecting, -processing, -analyzing, and -
disseminating agency responsible for coordinating and supervising the National Statistical System.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations leads international efforts to 
defeat hunger. Besides acting as a neutral forum to negotiate agreements and debate policy, FAO is also a
 source of knowledge and information.
The International Livestock Research Institute works at the crossroads of livestock and 
poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable 
development.
The World Resources Institute is an environmental think tank that goes beyond research to 
find practical ways to protect the earth and improve people’s lives.

A desert state turns green

Rajasthan (disused) water pump (Bhimpur Village)

Disused water pump in Bhimpur Village, 1.5 hours' drive south of Udaipur, in Rajasthan, India (photo ILRI / MacMIllan).

Over the last five years, poor monsoons have led to crippling droughts throughout Rajasthan, India's 'Land of the Kings', which includes a hilly and rugged southeastern region and the barren northwestern Thar Desert, which extends across the border into Pakistan.

Rajasthan cow (Bhimpur Village)

This year's monsoon, which started mid-June, is wetter than average. By mid-September, the rains had transformed Rajasthan's hills into misty verdant pastures, on which still-thin cattle and buffaloes are now fattening. Rivers are full and running fast and lake waters are high with their floodgates bursting with water. Even the camels appear thankful for the greenery the monsoon has brought. Maize is ripening in the fields and everywhere you look people are cutting the tall green grass and other fodder and loading it and carrying it home—on their heads, on their bullock carts, on the backs of their motorcycles—to feed their animals. They will dry and store the excess fodder for use when the land turns brown again.

Rajasthan rice straw stored for livestock feed (Bhimpur Village)

Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are working with others to conduct three case studies in South Asia on the use of stover and other crop 'wastes' for feeding ruminant farm animals. The residues of grain crops after harvesting are vital to animal husbandry here, where such residues typically make up more than half the feed for cattle, buffaloes, camels, goats and sheep.

The case studies are being conducted in three contrasting sites: the extensive and normally dry rangelands of Rajasthan, the modern farming sector of Haryana (part of India's breadbasket), and in the intensely cultivated fields of Bangladesh.

ILRI's Braja Swain in Rajasthan

Braja Swain, the project associate doing all the fieldwork and analyses for this project, says that even this year's good maize harvest will feed many families only for a few months, after which they will have to buy grain using money they get from selling some animals or from family members who have migrated away to find jobs.

Rajasthan goats (Renoje Village)

This project is funded by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research and led by the Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. ILRI's Swain is studying for a doctoral degree in economics at the Centre for Development Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi.