Planet under pressure / ‘Get out of the nerd loop’–NYT environmental reporter

Andrew Revkin

Environmental journalist Andrew Revkin (photo on Flickr by AKM Adam).

Andrew Revkin, environmental reporter for the New York Times, spoke this afternoon on day two of the Planet Under Pressure conference in London this week.

The formal title of this session, ‘The digital age and tipping points in social networks: Opportunities for planetary stewardship’, was in keeping with the elevated ambitions of the global change community meeting here.

‘Human beings are really bad at solving this kind of (planetary) problem’, Revkin opined in his opening statement (opining being his professional business).

He recalled world interest in ‘Noosphere’, a kind of planetary intelligence coined by Teilhard de Chardin to refer to the third stage of planetary development, coming after ‘geosphere’ (inanimate development) and ‘biosphere’ (biological life).

Just as the emergence of life fundamentally transformed the geosphere, the emergence of human cognition fundamentally transforms the biosphere. In contrast to the conceptions of Gaia theorists, or the promoters of cyberspace . . . noosphere emerges at the point where humankind, through the mastery of nuclear processes, begins to create resources through the transmutation of elements.’ — Wikipedia

Revkin noted Darwin’s remark in 1881 that we are all tribal—and that the reason we are all tribal is that we don’t know each other yet. That, of course, is changing dramatically with social media, he said.

‘We have a new set of tools for sharing ourselves. And I see great potential for its enhancing (sustainable) progress on our planet’, the New York Times journalist said.

‘Although the last thing the world needs is a new word’, continued Revkin, I offer “knowosphere”—a network of schools, libraries and so on making up a great global classroom. In this virtual classroom, students in Scotland and Ghana are conferring with each other right now on the topic of the rising waters of the Atlantic.’

Can we then expect a world of ‘scientists without borders’? Revkin asks, and then, answering himself, remarked, ‘It’s still early days’.

The hash tag, Revkin concluded, was invented by a guy at Mozilla as the San Diego fires were burning; he wanted to track talk of the fires. And that was the beginning of our ‘focussed discussions’ online.

‘It’s open season across time and space’, Revkin concluded. Time to ‘get out of the nerd loop’, he advised his (nerdy) audience.

Environmental scientist Amy Luers
Amy Luers, an environmental scientist formerly at Google.org and now at the Skoll Global Threats Fund, spoke next, promoting ‘boundary networks’ and ‘boundary spanning mechanisms’ linking formal and informal science and cross-cultural and societal norms.

She referred to ‘citizen science’, saying we’re at a tipping point.

‘Earth systems science needs to be more integrated into societies management and policy decisions’, Luer argued. ‘The digital age creates both opportunities and challenges in addressing this need.’

A remarkable 600 million people now have cell phones, she said. So it’s not about starting conversations but rather about joining conversations. ‘Much of the global change community has been reluctant to cross this line between telling a story and joining a conversation’, Luer warned.

Scientists are engaging in the social web, but the challenges remain, she said. ‘I sit in the non-acadmeic world now but work in the field of sustainability, and nobody I know had heard about this (Planet Under Pressure) conference!’

Luer ended with an interesting (perhaps irrelevant, certainly provocative) statistic:

Less than 20 per cent of Americans actually know a scientist—most scientists live in college towns, and only 9 per cent are Republicans!

 

Read more about the Planet Under Pressure conference on the ILRI News Blog
Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / A numbers game–but which numbers are the numbers that matter?, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Food security policy brief, 27 Mar 2012.

 

 

Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar

What?

One of India’s estimated 192 million, mostly household, goats and sheep (image on Flickr by Edo Bertran: Fotos Sin Photoshop) 

The pressure is on to say something useful at the Planet Under Pressure Conference, which opened today (26 Mar 2012) on a sunny spring morning at the London Docklands.

PUP, as the conference has already (oddly? fondly?) been dubbed, is the destination this week of all right-minded ‘systems’ thinkers, whether they be of the environmental, socioeconomic, developmental or (even) agricultural persuasion.

This assembly of the distinguished and the committed has practical aims—‘new knowledge for solutions’ is the tagline of the conference—and is meant to gather, agree on and promote scientific inputs to Rio+20 Earth Summit, which will be an even bigger affair. At the Brazilian conference, being held this June, heads of state will jostle for podium- and air-time with Nobel Laureates (as well as a group of  ‘Blue Planet Laureates’), directors general of global bodies, media pundits, green and food activists  (as well as ‘green food’ activists) and various glamourous spokespersons from the political, economic, health, development, humanitarian and entertainment spheres.

The job of Rio+20 is to get real commitment among global, regional and national leaders and policy- and decision-makers to a social cum economic cum political cum environmental agenda that will enable us over the next several decades to feed the (growing) world without destroying it.

The job of this week’s Planet Under Pressure meeting is to get consensus on key pieces of a scientific roadmap that will help us get to mid-century with as much grace as possible—that is to say, with as little harm as possible to people (whether poor, middle-income or rich) and their natural, fast-changing, environments, particularly our climate and remaining land, water, soil, tree, grass and biodiversity resources.

It is these natural resources, of course, that are under such stress and that we rely on most to sustain the planet and its people. Agriculture, in turn, constitutes a game-changer in the status of that natural resource base, both hurting and enhancing its health.

Agriculture will be represented at PUP by the CGIAR, a global science partnership working for a food-secure future. One of several new CGIAR research programs—on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)—is putting forth at this conference a set of authoritative policy recommendations on achieving food security in the face of climate change. These recommendations were produced by 13 members of a Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. The members, coming from 13 countries and representing half-a-dozen scientific disciplines, undertook in 2011 to synthesize reports of major assessments of the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security. (To download the full summary report, visit www.ccafs.cgiar.org/commission.)

Livestock issues—which have received so much of the world’s attention in recent years, particularly regarding livestock ‘bads’ (such as significant emissions of greenhouse gases, land and water degradation, transmission of bird flu and other zoonotic diseases to humans, overconsumption of meat and dairy in rich countries and communities, inattention to animal welfare)—are oddly missing from PUP’s main agenda. At the risk of polluting the blogosphere with yet more unnecessary statements of the ‘motherhood’ sort, we take this opportunity to redress this situation somewhat by giving readers some pro-poor and pro-sustainable evidence-based perspectives on some of the livestock issues being so hotly debated elsewhere.

A visit to the following online pinboards will allow you to drill down among several livestock topics. The materials on these virtual and illustrated pinboards include links to original articles. In the event you are under too much pressure from other commitments to pursue these topics now, we invite you to scan the following recommended reading on each of seven topics we hope will find inclusion in PUP’s discussions and conclusions this week.

Big-picture agriculture
Recommended:
New investments in agriculture likely to fail without  sharp focus on small-scale ‘mixed’ farmers, ILRI Clippings Blog, 12 Feb 2010.

 

Global livestock agenda
Recommended:
Where distinctions matter: Differentiating global livestock systems and regions ‘essential’, ILRI Clippings Blog, 2 Nov 2011.

 

Livestock and food security
Recommended:
Livestock one of three ways to feed the growing world—Economist special report, ILRI Clippings Blog, 25 Feb 2011.

 

Livestock and climate change
Recommended:
Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures, ILRI News Blog, 27 Jun 2011.

 

Livestock importance to the poor
Recommended:
Songs of praise, ILRI News Blog, opinion piece, 22 Dec 2008.

 

Livestock goods and bads
Recommended:
Another inconvenient truth, ILRI News Blog, opinion piece by Carlos Seré, 20 Sep 2007.

 

Livestock futures
Recommended:
Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection, ILRI News Blog, filmed slide presentation by ILRI systems analyst Mario Herrero, 7 Dec 2011.

 

‘Feed the Future’: Connecting ALL the (agricultural research) dots in the Ethiopian highlands

Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands: Project Design Workshop—Project Outline and concepts

Watch and listen to a 17-minute (audio-enhanced) slide presentation made by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali on the ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands,’ 30 Jan 2012.

Can scientists make the whole of agricultural research for development greater than the sum of its parts? That’s the aim of a new initiative starting this year in three regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of an American ‘Feed the Future’ initiative to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three agricultural research projects aiming to help Africa’s smallholders intensify their production systems and do so in ways that are sustainable.

These projects will be conducted in three regions of Africa: Sustainable intensification of cereal-based farming systems (1) in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa and (2) in East and Southern Africa, both led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria; and (3) Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands, led by the International Livestock Research Institue (ILRI).

These three African agricultural intensification projects were all launched this year (2012) with design workshops. A wiki has information on the three workshops, including their agendas and outputs.

The design workshop for the project in the Ethiopian highlands has just started at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. ILRI’s director for its People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, agronomist Shirley Tarawali, who will soon take up a new position as ILRI’s director of institutional planning, gave a 17-minute slide presentation on the project (above).

Tarawali said in her presentation that the project is ambitious to fix the disconnect between separate research projects on separate agricultural topics (livestock, cereals, water, and so on) by identifying and then pulling together the best research outputs from the separate research projects. Such outputs include, for example, the identification of legumes and cereals that will better feed livestock as well as people (and sometimes soils as well); ways to make more strategic use of scarce fertilizers and optimal combinations of organic (manure) and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers; and more efficient ways to use water resources.

Add these kinds of useful products together and we could benefit whole farming systems,’ says Tarawali.

To learn more, or to contribute to the discussions, visit a blog about this Feed the Future initiative in the Ethiopian highlands.

Read an ILRI Clippings Blog about this initiative: Experts meet in Addis Ababa to design new agricultural research project for Ethiopian highlands, 30 Jan 2012.

Read more about the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems in the developing world:

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection, 7 Dec 2011.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system, 23 Jun 2011.

 

 

Putting a price on water: From Mt Kenya forests to Laikipia savannas to Dadaab drylands

Ewaso Ng'iro Catchment A map of the Ewaso Ng’iro watershed catchment, taken from Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed, published in 2011 by ILRI. The Ewaso Ng’iro watershed incorporates the forests of Mt Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa; the wildlife-rich savannas of Laikipia; and the arid scrublands around Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp, located in Kenya’s Northeastern Province near the border with Somalia.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) published in 2011 a ground-breaking assessment of Kenya’s Ewaso Ng’iro watershed that maps its key ecosystem services—water, biomass, livestock, wildlife and  irrigated crops—and estimates their economic value. Based on the quantification of, and the demand for, these services, the ILRI scientists estimated their economic value and then obtained downscaled climate change projections for northern Kenya and assessed their impact on crop conditions and surface water hydrology.

Excerpts from the first chapter of the ILRI report
‘The Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) cover 80% of Kenya’s land area, include over 36 districts, and are home to more than 10 million people (25% of the total population) (GoK 2004). A vast majority (74%) of ASAL constituents were poor in 2005/06; poverty rates in the ASALs have increased from 65% in 1994 (KIHBS 2005/6 cited in MDNKOAL 2008), which contrasts with the rest of Kenya — national poverty rates fell from 52% to 46% in the decade 1996–2006. Similar stark inequalities between the ASALs and other areas of Kenya are found in health and education as well as infrastructure development and services provisioning (MDNKOAL 2010a).

‘After decades of neglect, the government is committed to close the development gap between the ASALs and the rest of Kenya. To do so, it charged the Ministry of State for Development of Northern Kenya and other Arid Lands (MDNKOAL) to develop policies and interventions addressing the challenges specific to ASAL, mostly regarding their climate, pastoral and agro- pastoral livelihood strategies and low infrastructure, financial, and human capitals (MDNKOAL 2008). Unlike line ministries with sectoral development planning, MDNKOAL has a cross- sectoral mandate, which requires a holistic approach to development, weighting trade-offs and promoting synergies between sectoral objectives. . . .

‘ASALs, with 24 million hectares of land suitable for livestock production, are home to 80 percent of Kenya’s livestock, a resource valued at Ksh 173.4 billion. The current annual turnover of the livestock sector in the arid lands of Kenya of Ksh 10 billion could be increased with better support for livestock production and marketing. Since livestock is the main source of livelihood of ASAL constituents, any improvement in livestock value could substantially reduce poverty. While rainfed crop production is quite marginal and restricted to pockets of higher potential areas within ASAL districts, there is a sizeable area that could support crop production if there were a greater investment in irrigation (“Pulling apart” and ASAL Draft Policy 2007 cited in MDNKOAL 2008). Wildlife-based tourism, which contributed 10% to GDP in 2007/2008 (World Bank 2010) is largely generated in the ASALs (MDNKOAL 2010a). While tourism revenue has been constantly on the rise (21.5 Million Ksh in 2000 to 65.4 Million Ksh in 2007 (Ministry of Tourism 2007)), the sector would benefit, among others, from improved road and tourism infrastructure (World Bank 2010).

‘Reliance of the ASAL on their natural capital for their development: the importance of ecosystem services In most of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid areas, pastoral livelihood strategies dominate. This involves moving livestock periodically to follow the seasonal supply of water and pasture. Agro-pastoralism, combining cropping with pastoral livestock keeping, is a livelihood strategy in areas where rainfed agriculture is possible and around more permanent water sources. In areas with slightly more rainfall, there is mixed farming with sedentary livestock. These agricultural lands are typically dominated by a mix of food, livestock and increasingly cash crops, such as flowers and high value vegetables which are often destined for export. The cash crops often rely on irrigated agriculture. Wildlife conservation and tourism are also important land uses with an increase in the dryland area under a protected status.

All of these livelihood strategies are directly dependent on ecosystem services, the benefits people get from ecosystems. As described, dryland ecosystems supply food from livestock and crops, water for domestic use and irrigation, and wood for fuel and construction (provisioning services). Beyond contributing to people’s livelihood strategies, healthy dryland ecosystems contribute to their standard of living (health, physical security) by delivering regulating services such as mitigating the impacts of periodic flooding, preventing erosion, sequestering carbon, purifying water, and affecting the distribution of rainfall throughout the region. These, in turn, all depend on supporting services, such as soil fertility that underlies the productivity of dryland and crops in particular and the production of biomass (vegetation) that sustains livestock and wildlife grazing. Moreover, Kenya’s dryland ecosystems provide important cultural services that maintain pastoral identities and support wildlife tourism.

‘ASAL ecosystems must be managed effectively so that they continue to provide these services. In developing land use planning, decision-makers need to understand and holistically manage the complex linkages between ecosystems, ecosystem services and people. The ecosystem services approach will provide tools to integrate socio-economic and bio-physical aspects providing a holistic approach to look at synergies and trade-offs in terms of land and water between land uses across the catchment.

‘One of the challenges the Ministry faces in taking the most of ASAL’s ecosystem services is to manage the various uses of water and land, as both are and will increasingly be the major limiting factors in improving standards of living in ASAL. In this context, the Ministry needs tools to compare alternative land and water uses between livestock, crop production, and wildlife-based tourism to enable its future assessments of how and how much each use will improve standards of living and whose standard of living. . . .’

Download the whole publication, Mapping and Valuing Ecosystem Services in the Ewaso Ng’iro Watershed, by Ericksen, PJ; Said, MY; Leeuw, J de; Silvestri, S; Zaibet, L; Kifugo, SC; Sijmons, K; Kinoti, J; Ng’ang’a, L; Landsberg, F; and Stickler, M. 2011. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Authors
ILRI’s Polly Ericksen was the project leader and editor/compiler of the report. ILRI scientists Mohammed Said, Jan de Leeuw, Silvia Silvestri and Lokman Zaibet wrote much of the material for the chapters. Shem Kifugo, Mohammed Said, Kurt Sijmons (GEOMAPA) and Leah Ng’ang’a compiled the data and made the maps. World Resources Institute’s Florence Landsberg contributed ideas and material for chapters 1 and 2. World Resources Institute’s Mercedes Stickler contributed information from Rural Focus.

Note
The following journal article is forthcoming: P Ericksen, J de Leeuw, M Said, S Silvestri and L Zaibet. In press. Mapping ecosystem services in the Ewaso N’giro Watershed. International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystem Services & Management.

 

Kenya’s pastoral herders are being paid for conserving their wildlife-rich rangelands for livestock and wildlife alike in innovate new schemes

Payments for ecosystem services

Maasai pastoral herders signing up to the Naboisho Conservancy in Mara area in 2010. Ecosystem conservation schemes are giving herders new sources of income (photo credit: ILRI/Bedelian).

Biodiversity conservation among pastoral communities is increasingly researched as an area that could hold the key to helping pastoralists deal with the challenges of climate change and land use policy changes by allowing them to diversify their incomes. In Kenya the use of payments for ecosystem services, mostly around the country’s reserves and parks—where people live close to wildlife—is providing a stable, reliable and predicable source of income to pastoralists with the double advantage of reducing poverty and protecting wildlife.

In many sites where payments for ecosystem services have be piloted successfully, local-level institutions have played a significant role in enabling communities to self-govern and are supported by flexible land-use and governance systems that respect the communal land ownership patterns that have traditionally existed in these areas.

Payments to livestock herders for the ecosystem services generated through their land uses are currently being made in lands adjacent to Kenya’s famous Masai Mara National Reserve, in the southwest of the country, and in the Kitengela wildlife dispersal area to the south of Nairobi National Park. In both areas, Maasai people have formed ‘eco-conservancies’ to protect their grazing areas for livestock and wildlife alike.

‘Findings from on-going research show that in 2009 in the Kitengela area, ecosystems payment schemes were providing a large amount of income that constituted 59 per cent of the total off-farm earnings among participating households, even though livestock keeping is still the largest and most important source of income for these pastoralists,’ said Philip Osano a student at McGill University who is affiliated to the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and is evaluating the effects of payments for ecosystems services on poverty reduction among pastoral communities in Kenyan rangelands.

‘Even though income from conservation payments is proving a valuable buffer against shocks such as tourism unpredictability and drought, creation of ‘eco-conservancies’ has displaced people and introduced new restrictions to grazing, natural resource collection and movement, increasing pressure on land in areas that border the eco-conservancies,’ says Claire Bedelian, a University College London researcher at ILRI who is accessing the impact of conservancy land leases on Maasai pastoralists in areas adjacent to the Masai Mara National Reserve

Scientists at ILRI, headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, are investigating these hard trade offs to ensure that the benefits of such interventions are more equitable among members of the pastoral communities inhabiting these wildlife-rich areas.

German Chancellor to visit Kenya and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)

P052611PS-0760

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently paid a visit to US President Barack Obama in Washington, DC, talks with the US president and British Prime Minister David Cameron before the start of the working G8 dinner in Deauville, France, 26 May 2011 (on Flickr by White House/Pete Souza).

Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany arrives tonight (Monday 11 July 2011) in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. This is Ms Merkel’s second tour in Africa since she became chancellor in 2005. On Tuesday (12 July), Merkel will meet Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga and pay visits to Nairobi University and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where German scientists have been working for decades on ways to use farm animals as instruments for poverty alleviation.

As reported in Kenya’s Capital FM, ‘German ambassador Margit Hellwig-Boette said the Chancellor chose to make Kenya her first stop in her three-nation visit because of its strategic role in shaping the region’s political and economic stability.

“The Chancellor’s visit is a sign of recognition in Kenya’s role on political and economic development in the region,” the ambassador said. . . .

‘Ms Merkel arrives in Nairobi on Monday night and will stay on until Tuesday evening when she departs for Angola, the second in her tour of three African nations. She will be in Nigeria on her third day. . . .

‘During her busy schedule on Tuesday, Ms Merkel will hold bilateral talks with the President and the Prime Minister separately and later hold a joint press conference with Mr Odinga before heading to a State luncheon hosted in her honour by President Kibaki.

‘Later on at 3 pm, she will issue a keynote address at the University of Nairobi’s Taifa Hall and later visit the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) before winding her visit with a visit to the UNEP [United Nations Environment Program] where she will hold round table discussions with experts there mainly on renewable energy where German[y] is a world leader.

‘The ambassador said the visit to ILRI was significant because German scientists have been heavily involved in research there for several years. . . .’

ILRI is a member of the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers. The Consortium works to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience through high-quality international agricultural research, partnership and leadership. ILRI and 14 other centres that are members of the consortium operate in over 200 locations worldwide, and work with a network of thousands of partners at all levels and across all sectors involved with international agriculture, and increasingly natural resources and the environment.

Read more at Kenya’s Capital FM: German Chancellor to visit Kenya, 10 July 2011.

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.

‘Virtual Kenya’ web platform launched today: User-friendly interactive maps for charting human and environmental health

Map of the Tana River Delta in Nature's Benefits in Kenya

Map of the the Upper Tana landforms and rivers published in Nature’s Benefits in Kenya Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, published in 2007 by the World Resources Institute, the Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing of the Kenya Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Central Bureau of Statistics of the Kenya Ministry of Planning and National Development, and ILRI.

For the last nine months, the World Resources Institute (USA) and Upande Ltd, a Nairobi company offering web mapping technology to the African market, have been working to develop what has been coined ‘Virtual Kenya,’ an online interactive platform with related materials for those with no access to the internet.  The content was developed by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Kenya Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) and the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (previously the Central Bureau of Statistics). The Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Jacaranda Designs Ltd developed offline educational materials. Technical support was provided by the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida) and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).

The Virtual Kenya platform was launched this morning at Nairobi’s ‘iHub’ (Innovation Hub), an open facility for the technology community focusing on young entrepreneurs and web and mobile phone programers, designers and researchers. Peter Kenneth, Kenya’s Minister of State for Planning, National Development and Vision 2030, was the guest of honour at the launch.

The minister remarked that:

Given that the government has facilitated the laying of fibre optic cabling across the country and is now in the process of establishing digital villages in all the constituencies, the Virtual Kenya initiative could not have come at a better time. I hope that it will accelerate the uptake of e-learning as an important tool in our school curriculum.

Virtual Kenya is designed to provide Kenyans with high-quality spatial data and cutting-edge mapping technology to further their educational and professional pursuits. The platform provides, in addition to online access to publicly available spatial datasets, interactive tools and learning resources for exploring these data.

Users both inside and outside of Kenya will be able to view, download, publish, share, and comment on various map-based products.

The ultimate goal of Virtual Kenya is to promote increased data sharing and spatial analysis for better decision-making, development planning and education in Kenya, while at the same time demonstrating the potential and use of web-based spatial planning tools.

The Atlas
At the moment, the Virtual Kenya platform features maps and information based on Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, published jointly in 2007 by the World Resources Institute (USA), ILRI, DRSRS the National Bureau of Statistics. Publication of the Atlas was funded by Danida, ILRI, Irish Aid, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sida and the United States Agency for International Development.

The Atlas overlays geo-referenced statistical information on human well-being with spatial data on ecosystems and their services to yield a picture of how land, people, and prosperity are related in Kenya.

By combining the Atlas’s maps and data on ecosystem services and human well-being, analysts can create new ecosystem development indicators, each of them capturing a certain relationship between resources and residents that can shed light on development in these regions. This approach can be used to analyze ecosystem-development relationships among communities within a certain distance of rivers, lakes and reservoirs; or the relations between high poverty areas and access to intensively managed cropland; or relations among physical infrastructure, poverty and major ecosystem services.

Decision-makers can use the maps to examine the spatial relationships among different ecosystem services to shed light on their possible trade-offs and synergies or to examine the spatial relationships between poverty and combinations of ecosystem services.

Virtual Kenya Platform
The Virtual Kenya platform is designed to allow users with more limited mapping expertise, specifically in high schools and universities, to take full advantage of the wealth of data behind the Atlas. The website also introduces more advanced users to new web-based software applications for visualizing and analyzing spatial information and makes public spatial data sets freely available on the web to support improved environment and development planning.

The Virtual Kenya website provides users with a platform to interactively view, explore, and download Atlas data in a variety of file formats and software applications, including Virtual Kenya Tours using Google Earth. In addition, GIS users in Kenya will—for the first time—have a dedicated online social networking community to share their work, comment and interact with each other on topics related to maps and other spatial data.

For those with limited mapping and GIS experience, Virtual Kenya will increase awareness of resources and tools available online to visualize and explore spatial information. For users and classrooms that do not have access to the Internet yet, other materials such as wall charts, student activity booklets, teachers guide, as well as the DVD with all the Virtual Kenya data and software will be available, giving them the opportunity to interact with tools available on the Virtual Kenya website.

Virtual Kenya email: info@virtualkenya.org

Virtual Kenya on the web:
Website: http://virtualkenya.org
Twitter: @virtualkenya
Facebook: VirtualKenya
YouTube: http://youtube.com/user/VirtualKenya

Read more about Nature’s Benefits in Kenya: An Atlas of Ecosystems and Human Well-Being, or download the Atlas, published by World Resources Institute, ILRI, Kenya Central Bureau of Statistics, and Kenya Department of Remote Surveys and Remote Sensing, 2007.

Editor’s note: The Kenya Department of Resource Surveys and Remote Sensing (DRSRS) was incorrectly named in the original version and corrected on 26 June 2011.

‘State of the World 2011′: Sustainable livestock production is part of the solution for nourishing people and the planet

Ploughing in Ethiopia

Samuel Adugna carries his wooden plough out to his fields for a day’s work with his two oxen near Wenchi town, in the Ethiopian highlands (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

State of the World, the flagship annual publication from the Worldwatch Institute (Nourishing the Planet), this year focuses on 15 agricultural innovations that can nourish both people and their environments. Sustainable livestock production in developing countries is included as one such solution.

‘For over 40 years, Earth Day has served as a call to action, mobilizing individuals and organizations around the world to address these challenges. This year Nourishing the Planet highlights agriculture—often blamed as a driver of environmental problems—as an emerging solution.

‘Agriculture is a source of food and income for the world’s poor and a primary engine for economic growth. It also offers untapped potential for mitigating climate change and protecting biodiversity, and for lifting millions of people out of poverty.

‘This Earth Day, Nourishing the Planet offers 15 solutions to guide farmers, scientists, politicians, agribusinesses and aid agencies as they commit to promoting a healthier environment and a more food-secure future.’

One of the 15 solutions highlighted in the State of the World 2011 is improving food production from livestock. This chapter, written by Mario Herrero and other staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), describes how:

‘. . . In the coming decades, small livestock farmers in the developing world will face unprecedented challenges: demand for animal-source foods, such as milk and meat, is increasing, while animal diseases in tropical countries will continue to rise, hindering trade and putting people at risk. Innovations in livestock feed, disease control, and climate change adaptation–as well as improved yields and efficiency–are improving farmers’ incomes and making animal-source food production more sustainable. In India, farmers are improving the quality of their feed by using grass, sorghum, stover, and brans to produce more milk from fewer animals. . . .’

Read the whole article, which is cross-posted on the websites of the Huffington Post and Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet: Agriculture: The unlikely Earth Day hero, 19 April 2011.

Read the whole livestock chapter in the State of the World.

Purchase the book, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, in which this and 14 other solutions are described and watch a one-minute book trailer.

The future of pastoralism in Africa debated in Addis: Irreversible decline or vibrant future?

Maasai man takes his goats out for a day's grazing

A Maasai man takes his goats out in the early morning for a day’s grazing in northern Tanzania (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

An international conference deliberating the future of pastoralists in Africa is taking place this week (21–23 March  2011) at the Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Big changes are occurring in, and to, Africa’s vast pastoral regions. Livestock herders’ access to resources, options for mobility and opportunities for marketing are all evolving fast. Is there, the organizers of this conference ask, opportunity for a productive, vibrant, market-oriented livelihood system or will pastoralist areas remain a backwater of underdevelopment, marginalization and severe poverty?

The Future Agricultures Consortium, an alliance of agricultural development researchers and practitioners that facilitates policy dialogues and debates on the role of agriculture in broad-based African growth, and the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University, which also has a mixed staff of development researchers and practitioners, have jointly organized this conference to share new learning about ongoing change and innovation in Africa’s pastoral areas.

One of the aims of the conference organizers is to shift the crisis narrative that so often dominates news and discussions of pastoralists in Africa. As noted on the Future Agricultures Consortium website: ‘Frequently depicted as in crisis, pastoralists are changing the way they live and work in response to new opportunities and threats revealing the resilience that pastoralists have demonstrated for millennia. Accessing new markets and innovating solutions to safeguard incomes, this often misunderstood and marginalised community is re-positioning itself to make the most of the East African economy. . . .

‘The pastoralist way of life—synonymous with irreversible decline, ‘crises’ and aid rescues—is poorly understood. And whilst the words ‘pastoralism’ and ‘crisis’ have become fused in the minds of many, there are positive signs of vibrant pastoralist livelihoods that debunk the usual reportage of pastoralists depicted as insecure, vulnerable and destitute. . . .

‘Failed by generations of unsuccessful state development plans and aid strategies, pastoralists have been let down because the real problems and issues they face have not been taken into account. A more accurate understanding of the processes of change happening within pastoralist areas, which are significant and complex, has been obscured by the perpetuated myths of pastoralism in crisis.

‘Understanding the complexity and potential for pastoralism is crucial to informing policies for securing the future of this age-old and resilient sector in sub-Saharan Africa.’

Hot topics
The new research and practical experiences being shared at this conference are on the following hot topics in academic and development research.
Regional pastoralist policies (and the politics of pastoralist policy)
Mobility and the sustainability of pastoralist production systems
Impacts of climate change on pastoralism
Commercializing pastoralism through better markets and trade
Delivering basic health, education and veterinary services to pastoralists
New approaches for strengthening pastoralist livelihoods and social protection systems
Alternative livelihoods and exit strategies for pastoralists
Pastoralist views of land grabbing and land tenure
Pastoralist innovations
How conflicts are affecting pastoralist development in the Horn of Africa
The place, and potential, of youth and women in pastoralist societies

Researchers, policymakers, field practitioners and donor representatives at this conference are assessing the present and future challenges to African pastoralism so as to begin to define new research and policy agendas.

For more information, visit the Future Agricultures Consortium website conference page or blog and revisit this ILRI News blog.

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

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