More on getting credible figures for livestock emissions of greenhouse gases

Cover of recommendations produced Nov 2011 by CCAFS/Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, an initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), is identifying policy changes and actions needed to help the world achieve food security in the face of climate change; the Commission launched this summary for policymakers on 16 Nov 2011 (photo on cover by Neil Palmer/CIAT).

The current issue of New Scientist publishes an article describing a recently released study, ‘Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change’, which was commissioned by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). For more on that study, see the CCAFS news release of 16 November 2011: ‘Global Commission Charts Pathway for Achieving Food Security in Face of Climate Change‘.

Sujata Gupta’s New Scientist article on meat consumption, ‘Just how much meat can eco-citizens eat?’ (online publication date: 16 November 2011; print issue date: 19 November 2011; print issue number: 2839), contains what we believe is a factual error. Gupta quotes a 2007 article in the Lancet (‘Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health’, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61256-2) that 80% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from meat production.

More credible figures, compiled from international global assessments by agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero and his colleagues at the International Livestock Research Institute, are the following.

The total agricultural sector emits around 25–32% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Crops emit 14% (EPA 2006) and all livestock emit 11–18%, depending on how emissions are attributed (FAO 2006, EPA 2006, PBL 2010). The emissions from livestock can be divided roughly as 30% methane from enteric fermentation, 30% nitrous oxide from manure management and 40% from carbon dioxide from land-use changes for grazing and feed production (FAO 2006). Figures for the emissions from land-use changes carry a lot of uncertainty. Emissions can also be divided by species and product. For example, the dairy sector is responsible for roughly 27% of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock (FAO 2010) while monogastric production (pigs/poultry) is responsible for  10–20% of the livestock emissions. Hence, it is not possible that beef production can account for 80% of all agricultural emissions. Even if beef cattle represent 50–60% of livestock emissions, this translates roughly into a figure close to 30–35% of all agricultural emissions—certainly not 80%. What is true is that of all livestock products, beef is the most inefficient in terms of greenhouse gas emissions produced per unit of product, especially compared to dairy and monogastrics (De Vries and de Boer 2010).

Herrero and his colleagues at ILRI, CCAFS and elsewhere are publishing updates on topics concerning livestock production and climate and other kinds of global change. Look out, for example, for the following book chapter, due next month, which we will report on in this blog: M Herrero, PK Thornton, P Havlík, and M Rufino, Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: Mitigation options and trade-offs. In: E Wollenberg, A Nihart, ML Tapio-Bistrom and C Seeberg-Elverfeldt (eds), Climate Change Mitigation and Agriculture, Earthscan, London, UK (in press).

See an earlier report on a similar topic in this ILRI News Blog: Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures, 27 Jun 2011.

Taking stock: Global livestock production systems are (finely and finally) differentiated

Mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world produce significant amounts of milk and meat

Mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world produce significant amounts of milk and meat (figure credit: ILRI/Herrero, 2010).

A new book years in the making on the seemingly abstruse topic of  ‘livestock system classifications’ has just been published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

To find out why classifying livestock systems is not an academic matter (hint: it can help fill the gap between the potential and actual yields of our food production systems), but rather matters rather urgently, particularly to the futures of more than 1 billion poor people who depend on livestock for their livelihoods, read on. And note that the book includes lots of new maps to pore over.

Global datasets are becoming increasingly important for priority setting and targeting by organizations with a global mandate for agriculture and agricultural research for development in developing countries. Until now, the best estimates of livestock production systems were those produced by ILRI in 2002. These have now been updated and improved upon by FAO and ILRI.

What’s the book about? From the blurb
‘Informed livestock sector policy development and priority setting is heavily dependent on a good understanding of livestock production systems. In a collaborative effort between the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Livestock Research Institute, stock has been taken of where we have come from in agricultural systems classification and mapping; the current state of the art; and the directions in which research and data collection efforts need to take in the future.

‘The book also addresses issues relating to the intensity and scale of production, moving from what is done to how it is done. The intensification of production is an area of particular importance, for it is in the intensive systems that changes are occurring most rapidly and where most information is needed on the implications that intensification of production may have for livelihoods, poverty alleviation, animal diseases, public health and environmental outcomes.

‘A series of case studies is provided, linking livestock production systems to rural livelihoods and poverty and examples of the application of livestock production system maps are drawn from livestock production, now and in the future; livestock’s impact on the global environment; animal and public health; and livestock and livelihoods. . . .’

Why this book? From the Introduction
‘Many organizations are involved in assembling and disseminating global spatial datasets that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Such datasets are becoming increasingly important for priority setting and targeting by organizations with a global mandate for agriculture and agricultural research for development, such as the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the international centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), regional and subregional research organizations, and donors who need to target their investments and measure their impacts on beneficiaries. The world in which we live is extremely dynamic, and this is reflected in the ways in which the world feeds itself and people meet their livelihood requirements. There can be considerable heterogeneity in the determinants of rural poverty (Snel and Henninger, 2002; Kristjanson et al., 2005). An implication of this is that poverty alleviation efforts increasingly need to be targeted at relatively small groups of people, and this calls for a finer grain in the definition of intervention domains than has perhaps been considered in the past.

‘Currently, one of the biggest gaps in the availability of global datasets is a spatial agricultural systems classification that provides appropriate detail on the distribution of crops and livestock in different places.

This publication addresses this gap by bringing together some recent developments in agricultural production system mapping and highlighting some of the difficult problems involved. The book also identifies further work that is required to develop a dynamic global agricultural production systems classification that can be mapped, ground-truthed, and refined through time. . . .

‘The outputs described here should find immediate application among development organizations, donors and research institutes, in targeting investment and technology or policy interventions that are effective in promoting sustainable livelihoods of the poor in developing countries.

Why map livestock production systems?
‘Farming of crops and livestock cannot be considered independently of one another nor should they be considered in isolation. Established links between livestock numbers, cultivation levels and human populations suggest that greater attention should be paid to quantifying and mapping these associations (Bourn and Wint, 1994). The interdependence of crops and livestock in mixed farms and the different contributions made to livelihoods (Powell et al., 1995) suggest that these two aspects of farming should be considered together. The nature of such interactions is heavily shaped by environmental factors and, increasingly, by economic forces.

‘A detailed knowledge of the distribution of livestock resources finds many applications, for example, in estimating production and off-take, the impacts of livestock on the environment, livestock disease risk and impact, and the role that livestock plays in people’s livelihoods (Robinson et al., 2007; FAO, 2007a). But livestock is not all equal. In different contexts it serves quite different functions, plays different roles in people’s livelihoods, varies in herd structure and breed composition, and is fed and managed in different ways. For most applications some sort of practical stratification is needed: milk yields are not the same from cows reared in extensive, low-input pastoral systems as they are from specifically-bred dairy cows raised intensively. In the same way, the risks posed by livestock diseases vary considerably depending on whether animals are kept in high-density housing or grazed over large areas of rangeland, for example. At its simplest, combining information on production systems with livestock statistics allows livestock numbers to be disaggregated by production system (see, for example, the appendices in FAO, 2007a). Compared with simple national totals, this gives a more meaningful breakdown of how livestock are distributed across the globe. . . .’

What are the new numbers? From the conclusions
‘In terms of the numbers of poor and our estimates of the numbers of poor livestock keepers, based on national, rural poverty lines for 2010, the critical regions are still South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Some 71 percent of the estimated 430 million poor livestock keepers live in these two regions, up from 66 percent a decade earlier. While the rangeland systems contain relatively few poor, most of these households are dependent on livestock for their livelihoods. Half of the poor livestock keepers in rangeland systems globally are located in sub-Saharan Africa: nearly 60 million, based on national, rural poverty lines. The mixed systems contain large numbers of poor (over one billion), and the number of poor people who depend to some extent on livestock is considerable: the mixed irrigated and mixed rainfed systems are estimated to host more than 300 million poor livestock keepers based on national and international US$1.25 per day poverty lines, and double that many based on the international US$2.00 per day poverty lines.

‘Despite their obvious limitations and coarseness, the data presented on locations and densities of poor livestock keepers can still provide information of considerable use. The current information continues to be used at ILRI to prioritize and focus livestock research, and to help identify ‘hotspots’ at the global and regional levels that can then be investigated in more detail at higher resolution. Such hotspots can be defined in various ways depending on the purpose: as areas of high population densities of poor livestock keepers, or areas of high densities of poor people coupled with high levels of biodiversity or natural resource degradation, for example. Such information is critical for informing action agendas concerning livestock, development, and global change. . . .’

How did the book come about? From the foreword
‘This book has grown out of a long-standing collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It emerged from a meeting of international organizations held at the Earth Institute at Columbia University in 2004, at which FAO and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research were charged with closing a gap in our understanding of the distribution of agricultural production systems. The book took further shape following a workshop convened by FAO in Bangkok in 2006, during which the custodians of many of the key datasets needed to produce maps of global livestock production systems were brought together with experts and researchers in agricultural production systems. It brings together the results of several years’ of activity by FAO and ILRI, along with colleagues from the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and many other organisations not explicitly linked to the production of the book.’

Download the whole publication here: Global livestock production systems, by TP Robinson, PK Thornton (ILRI), G Franceschini, RL Kruska (former ILRI), F Chiozza, A Notenbaert (ILRI), G Cecchi, M Herrero (ILRI), M Epprecht, S Fritz, L You, G Conchedda and L See, 2011, Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), 152 pp.

Best ways to manage responses to recurring drought in Kenya’s drylands

cattle carcass_Kitengela_NNP_border_1

The carcass of a cow that died of starvation in the Kitengela rangelands, near Nairobi National Park, in the great drought of 2009 (photo on Flickr by Jeff Haskins).

Those working to mitigate the impacts of the current drought in the Horn of Africa and to help prevent severe hunger and starvation from occurring here in future will profit from a close reading of a 2010 report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). This report—An Assessment of the Response to the 2008–2009 Drought in Kenya: A Report commissioned by the European Delegation to the Republic of Kenya—reviews the effectiveness of livestock-based drought response interventions during Kenya’s devastating 2008–2009 drought and suggests ways to improve the current drought management system and to incorporate climate change adaptation strategies into the country’s drought management policies.

Major findings of the report

The overriding importance of mobility
Without a single exception, all pastoralist groups interviewed consider mobility and access to natural resources as the most potent mechanism for coping with drought. Ironically, this is also the activity that is increasingly the most impeded. Interventions that facilitate and/or maintain critical migratory movement and/or allow access to unused grazing areas will continue to serve as the most powerful way to mitigate livestock losses during a drought. Often the funds required to achieve this are minimal compared to other interventions and as such it is also the most cost-effective intervention. Interventions targeting the removal of restrictions to mobility and access should be considered as prime activities during preparedness.

The importance of functioning livestock markets
Participants of a one-day workshop on commercial destocking in Marsabit District said that a successful commercial de-stocking intervention is next to impossible if the district does not already have a functioning, fully fledged, dynamic livestock trade as an ongoing activity during ‘normal’ times. ‘Emergency’ commercial de-stocking, they said, should in that case not be necessary because the commercial sector, if functioning, should be capable to up-scale its activity if and when there appeared a drought-related market surplus of stock.

Drought responses are falling behind
Although the drought responses presented here appear to be more effective and timely than responses to earlier droughts, these recent responses are not keeping up with an ongoing decline in many pastoral households in livestock assets and coping capacities. Furthermore, poor governance, lack of political will and mismanagement of funds plague efforts to move from relief responses to longer term development interventions. And conflicts over land, closely linked to a rapid population growth in Kenya, remain largely unresolved, with indications that these conflicts are only increasing and severely restricting pastoral mobility.

Lack of involvement of local communities
Local communities were not involved in the design and implementation of most interventions to help them cope with the drought. The single community to be consulted was in Laikipia, and that consultation was restricted to just one topic: livestock off-take. A Kajiado Naserian community that wanted support with finding alternative livelihoods so that it could stop relying on relief food actually found a goat distribution project that involved the community to be more successful than any relief interventions. Another community, in Isiolo’s Merti location, prefers a viable livestock market to any government-funded livestock off-take program and sees investments in pasture management as one way to solve the feed problems during drought.

Lessons learned
The good news
Increased semi-permanent presence of key non-governmental organizations in critical areas that are able to encompass a realistic drought management cycle approach has substantially improved information and speed of response. This, in combination with improved collaboration between agencies, together with improved coordination has at face value improved both the quality and timeliness of responses to droughts. The continued implementation of a basket of suitable preparedness activities remains the most cost-effective approach to reduce the impact of shocks. Activities such as those implemented by a regional ‘Drought Preparedness’ program of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) and a project on ‘Enhanced Livelihoods in the Mandera Triangle’ funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) are beginning to show a marked impact.

The bad news
But this good news is largely negated by other factors, such as reduced line ministry capacity, administrative/institutional changes such as the relentless creation of new districts, and conflicts. In some arid districts and in overall humanitarian terms, drought emergencies are no longer caused solely by prolonged periods of rainfall deficit; rather, such emergencies are increasingly provoked by many factors acting in concert, with the most important contributing factor being reduced access to high-potential grazing lands. This situation is itself caused, and heavily exacerbated, by a relentlessly increasing demographic pressure that is creating whole populations with scarce access to any animal resources at all. These dryland communities are left highly vulnerable to shocks.

Other major findings

The problems underlying dryland livestock-based livelihoods cannot be solved by relief interventions alone; their solutions require long-term research and development strategies and programs that build on and strengthen rather than undermine local institution, livelihood strategies and coping strategies.

Population growth and the continued and unplanned creation of settlements without access to permanent water continue to put a huge burden on humanitarian sources during a drought.

Communities found corruption and mismanagement to be bigger problems than ineffective interventions.

A Livestock Emergency Guidelines and Standards (LEGS, 2009) handbook, summarizing livestock-specific interventions, is an excellent toolkit supporting relief practitioners, but much remains to be improved regarding the appropriate timing of such interventions.

The lack of a coordinated approach in, and access to, reliable livestock statistics, both numerical and distribution wise, remains a huge constraint in the overall management of Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands.

To prevent delays in the release of emergency funds, drought contingency plans should be regularly updated and contain agreed-upon quantitative triggers for the release of funds to implement interventions and creation of a sufficiently endowed national drought contingency fund deserves the highest priority.

About the report
In late 2009, at the conclusion of Kenya’s 2008–2009 drought, the European Union delegation funded this review of responses to the drought to help Kenya improve its drought management system by recommending more appropriate, effective and timely livestock-based interventions. The report begins by characterizing the severity of the two-year drought and assessing how well its impacts were forecasted. It then reviews 474 livestock-based interventions carried out during the 2008–2009 drought in six arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya. It recommends which livestock-related interventions to implement during drought (including specific advice on commercial destocking) and provides a checklist of advised livestock-based interventions for different scenarios. It offers guidelines for effective monitoring and evaluation. And it identifies where the drought response intervention cycle is hampered by policy constraints and how these might be addressed.

About drought in Kenya
Drought is the prime recurrent natural disaster in Kenya. It affects 10 million, mostly livestock-dependent, people in the country’s arid and semi-arid lands; remarkably, these non-arable lands cover more than 80 per cent of the country’s land mass. While reducing the country’s economic performance, recurring droughts particularly erode the assets of the poor, who herd cattle, camels, sheep, goats over the more marginal drylands. This regular erosion of animal assets is undermining the livelihoods of Kenya’s pastoral herding communities, provoking many households into a downward spiral of chronic hunger and severe poverty.

About Kenya’s drought management system
Since 1996, the Office of the President in Kenya, supported by the World Bank, has been implementing an Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP) in the country’s drought-prone and marginalized communities. The ALRMP, further supported by the European Union, funded a Drought Management Initiative and consolidated a national drought management system with structures at the national (Kenya Food Security Meeting, Kenya Food Security Steering Group), district (District Steering Group) and community levels. This drought management system includes policies and strategies, an early warning system, a funded contingency plan and an overall drought coordination and response structure. The main stakeholders involved, in addition to the Government of Kenya and its line ministries, are various development partners and non-governmental organizations. The most far-reaching changes to Kenya’s drought management system since its inception are now under way and include major institutional changes through the creation of a Drought Management Authority and a National Drought Contingency Fund.

About the drought of 2008–2009
The results of this study confirm that the 2008–2009 drought was extreme not only in meteorological and rangeland production terms, but also in terms of its devastating impacts on livestock resources. It is estimated that some 57 per cent of cattle and 65 per cent of sheep, for example, perished in Samburu Central District in 2009; in Laikipia North District, it is reported that 64 per cent of the cattle and 62 per cent of the sheep died over the 2008–2009 period. (Note that these estimates, being mostly subjective, give more of an impression than a reliable estimate of the impacts of the drought on Kenya’s livestock populations.)

What’s in this report?
Chapter 3 provides a general characterization of Kenya’s 2008/2009 drought. Chapter 4, assesses the drought responses in six arid and semi-arid districts of Kenya (Kajiado, Isiolo, Samburu, Laikipia, Turkana and Marsabit), incorporating feedback from a variety of stakeholders at district and national levels. Chapter 5 provides a checklist for drought-response scenarios; Chapter 6, guidelines for monitoring and evaluating responses to drought; and Chapter 7, a plan for commercial destocking in one of these districts. Chapter 8 summarizes climate change forecasts for Kenya and assesses the need for incorporating climate change adaptation policies into the country’s drought management strategies. Chapter 9 discusses the implications of the findings and makes recommendations. Chapter 10 distils lessons learned. This report is similar to an evaluation of responses to the 2000/2001 drought in Kenya (by Y Aklilu and M Wekesa) and reviews to what extent their recommendations were effectively implemented.

The report’s findings in a nutshell
The number of livestock interventions made increased dramatically between the 2000/2001 and 2008/2009 droughts. The total expenditure was also greater in 2008/2009 (USD4.6 million for 6 districts) than in 2000/20001 (USD4 million in 10 districts). ALRMP and the Kenya Government were the main funders of the efforts. Unfortunately, most livestock-related interventions began very late, in early to mid 2009, well past the optimal timing closer to the onset of the drought, in mid-2008. The ALRMP interventions started earliest, reportedly because it was the only organization with funds readily available through its Drought Contingency mode, when the drought became apparent to all. A total of more than 1.5 million people benefited directly from the interventions made in 2008/2009. The cost per individual reached was Kshs3,362, ranging from Kshs163 for water trucking to Kshs8,652 for emergency destocking. An estimated 15,873 tropical livestock units were purchased as part of emergency off-take. Over 5.7 million animals were reached by health interventions between July 2008 and December 2009. Over 1.5 million people were reached by interventions, 413,802 with traditional livestock interventions (destocking, animal health and feeds).

Practical lessons learned

Lesson 1
The most effective interventions were those that facilitated access to under-utilized grazing and watering resources. Those districts in Kenya with little new access to these natural resources are the most vulnerable.

Lesson 2
So-called ‘commercial de-stocking’ remains the least cost-effective drought intervention in Kenya. Long distances to markets, poor timing of interventions and lack of economies of scale all play important roles in making this kind of de-stocking unviable. But more than anything else, lack of an existing dynamic marketing system virtually precludes a commercial de-stocking operation from being cost-effective.

Lesson 3
‘Livestock-fodder-aid’ comes a close second in terms of poor cost-effectiveness. Shipping substantial quantities of bulky commodities such as hay to remote locations is extremely costly and moreover has had little if any measurable impact.

Lesson 4
Slaughter off-take, preferably carried out on the spot, with the meat distributed rapidly to needy families, is a popular intervention with beneficiaries and can provide substantial benefits. Those that sell a live animal often benefit also from the distribution of its meat. And the availability of this high-protein food can benefit household nutrition while allowing the selling households to maintain a little purchasing power a little longer.

More specific findings

The number of livestock-related interventions and the funding associated with these both increased considerably over the interventions carried out during the last drought in Kenya, in 2000/2001.

Once established, risk management systems tend to become static, but effective risk-management systems need to be adaptive and to build in mechanisms for people to ‘learn’.

Few interventions were made by mid-2008, when the drought was already apparent. Early interventions are preferable as they are more effective. Yet 63 per cent of all interventions, and all destocking programs, were conducted after June 2009, when the drought was at its peak.

Centrally managed interventions from Nairobi, such as the provision of fodder and the Ministry of Livestock Development-funded market off-take through the Kenya Meat Commission, had little impact and would have been many times more effective if funds had been made available through Drought Management Structures. (Considerable harm was done when publicized sales of stock never materialized, with large numbers of the animals herded to specified collection points suffering horribly and dying for lack of water and fodder.)

Unmanaged resource-related conflicts among ethnic groups were reported to be a major constraint to an equitable use of the diminishing natural resource base.

Bringing in water with tankers, maintaining and developing boreholes and destocking by slaughter in the affected areas were generally considered to be the most effective interventions. Most ‘other water’ and animal feeding interventions were considered ineffective.

Being more effective is not simply a question of spending more money; significant gains can be made by improving the way current resources are spent. (Across all types of interventions, no significant relationship was found between the effectiveness of a given intervention and its cost per individual reached.)

The problems of many unsuccessful interventions, such as animal feed and health, were due largely to inefficiency of implementation and/or poor timing.

A third more animals were moved in 2008/2009 than in 2000/2001. As disease killed many of the animals that migrated, animal health interventions should be included in future migration strategies.

Hay provisioning, which when well done might be an appropriate intervention, was generally too late and too little to have any significant impact on supporting animal herds through the drought.

Apart from Turkana and Samburu districts, no information on livestock marketing was disseminated or off-take exercises publicized, resulting in late off-takes and a greater expenditure of resources for off-take during the emergency stage than during the alert/alarm stage.

Bulletins put out by EWS (Early Warning Systems) provide overly generalized information, with no specific livestock focus, making the information inappropriate for livestock interventions. The information also often appears late, is too generic for district-specific interventions, and defines no thresholds for the release of contingency funds.

A lack of publicly available near-real-time and historic rainfall data hampered the real time analysis of rainfall anomalies. From a timeliness perspective, rainfall data is the most appropriate source of information for early warning, as it allows the longest response time to scale up relief operations. A number of organizational issues in the hands of government could improve this situation.

Analysis of monthly vegetation greenness anomalies does not appropriately reveal rangeland drought conditions relevant for livestock, as livestock manages to cope with shorter periods of reduced forage availability. A twelve-month running average of NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) detected historic droughts much more precisely, indicating the usefulness of running average techniques for rangeland early warning purposes.

Satellite imagery allows near real time to screen opportunities for migration and identify for remedial conflict resolution in areas of high insecurity.

The reporting on livestock body condition, milk production and productivity proved to be inconsistent across districts, frequently incomplete and with units of measurement unspecified, indicating the need to harmonize the collection of livestock statistics.

Read ILRI’s whole report: An assessment of the response to the 2008–2009 drought in Kenya: A report to the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Kenya, 2010, by Lammert Zwaagstra, Zahra Sharif, Ayago Wambile, Jan de Leeuw, Mohamed Said, Nancy Johnson, Jemimah Njuki, Polly Ericksen and Mario Herrero.

* * *

Read an earlier ILRI News blog on this report: Livestock-based research recommendations for better managing drought in Kenya, 18 Jul 2011.

Three other recent ILRI research reports, published since that above, also assess the effectiveness of past drought interventions in Kenya’s northern drylands and offer tools for better management of the region’s drought cycles.

(1) ILRI research charts ways to better livestock-related drought interventions in Kenya’s drylands. ILRI Policy Brief (this is a distillation of recommendations in the report above), Jul 2011, by Jan de Leeuw, Polly Ericksen, Jane Gitau, Lammert Zwaagstra and Susan MacMillan

(2) The impacts of the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMPII) on livelihoods and vulnerability in the arid and semi-arid lands of Kenya. ILRI Research Report 25, 2011, edited by Nancy Johnson and Ayago Wambile.

This study assesses the impacts of the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMPII), a community-based drought management initiative implemented in 28 arid and semi-arid districts in Kenya from 2003 to 2010 to improve the effectiveness of emergency drought response while at the same time reducing vulnerability, empowering local communities, and raising the profile of ASALs in national policies and institutions.

(3) Livestock drought management tool. Final report for a project submitted by ILRI to the FAO Sub-Regional Emergency and Rehabilitation Officer for East and Central Africa, 10 Dec 2010, by Polly Ericksen, Jan de Leeuw and Carlos Quiros.

In August 2010, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) sub-Regional Emergency Office for Eastern and Central Africa contracted ILRI to develop a prototype livestock drought management decision support tool for use by a range of emergency and relief planners and practitioners throughout the region. The tool, which is still conceptual rather than operational, links the concepts of ‘drought cycle management’ with best practice in livestock-related interventions throughout all phases of a drought, from normal through the alert and emergency stages to recovery. The tool uses data to indicate the severity of the drought (hazard) and the ability of livestock to survive the drought (sensitivity). The hazard data has currently been parameterized for Kenya, but can be used in any countries of East and Central Africa. The tool still lacks good-quality data for sensitivity and requires pilot testing in a few local areas before it can be rolled out.

Predicted impacts of climate change on Kenya: Definitely hotter–expect less productive cropping, more livestock herding

Links between droughts and GDP growth in Kenya, 1975-1995

Why climate change matters in Kenya: This figure shows the close relationship between drought events and GDP growth in Kenya over two decades (figure by IFPRI 2006).

As a prolonged drought bites harder in northern Kenya and other regions of the Horn of Africa, it may be useful to review a report on a ‘Kenya Smallholder Climate Change Adaptation’ project, published in October 2010, which gives an overview of Kenya’s climate variability and change and the impacts of both on the country’s agriculture.

The project was conducted by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the International Food Policy Research Institute and funded by the World Bank and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

ILRI agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero is the lead author of a note on the project, some of the main findings of which are summarized below.

  • With agriculture accounting for about 26 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 75 percent of its jobs, the Kenyan economy is highly sensitive to variations in rainfall.
  • Arid and semi-arid areas, which comprise 80 per cent of Kenya’s total land area, are prone to floods despite their low levels of rainfall (between 300 and 500 millimeters annually).
  • Kenya experiences major droughts every decade and minor ones every three to four years.
  • The negative effects of these droughts are spreading among the increasingly dense population and fragile arid and semi-arid lands.
  • Intensification and transition to mixed agro-pastoralist systems are increasingly marginalizing Kenya’s nomadic and pastoralist systems.
  • Rainfed agriculture is, and will remain, the dominant source of staple food production and the livelihood foundation of most of the rural poor in Kenya.
  • We need to better understand and cope with Kenya’s existing climate variability.
  • We need to plan for future climate variability on this continent: Climate model simulations under a range of possible greenhouse gas emission scenarios suggest that the median temperature increase for Africa is 3–4°C by the end of the 21st century, which is roughly 1.5 times the global mean response.

Kenya temperature on the rise

Rising monthly means of temperatures in Kenya from 1907 to 1998 in the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem (graphic by ILRI’s Joseph Ogutu, 2001).

  • Predictions about future levels of precipitation in Kenya are complicated both because precipitation in the country is highly variable across space and time and because we have few data available for analysis, but some total annual precipitation projections for Kenya suggest increases by about 0.2 to 0.4 per cent per year.
  • Although the projected increases in rainfall might appear to be good news for Kenya’s arid and semi-arid districts, increased evapo-transpiration due to rising temperatures means few if any increases in the length of growing periods and rangeland or crop productivity.
  • Extreme rainfall events are likely to become more intense over much of northern East Africa.
  • An increase in climate variability in Kenya, leading to more than one drought every five years, is likely to cause significant and irreversible decreases in livestock numbers in the country’s arid and semi-arid lands, with severe impacts on pastoralists whose food security and livelihood depend solely on livestock.
  • Climate change will likely lead to increased food imports by Kenya, which will dampen demand for food, as the affordability of nearly all agricultural commodities—including basic staples and livestock products—declines, leading to increases in malnutrition, especially of young children in the country’s highly vulnerable arid and semi-arid lands.
  • As a result of climate change, Kenya could see significant areas where cropping is no longer possible and the role of livestock as a livelihood option increases.

Read the whole note: Climate Variability and Climate Change: Impacts on Kenyan Agriculture, Note on a Kenya Smallholder Climate Adaptation Project, by Mario Herrero, Claudia Ringler, Jeannette van de Steeg, Philip Thornton, Tingju Zhu, Elizabeth Bryan, Abisalom Omolo, Jawoo Koo and An Notenbaert, October 2010.

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.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system

Extensive farming in central Malawi

An extensive agricultural landscape typical of central rural Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero, who leads a Sustainable Livestock Futures group at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya, gave a slide presentation last November at an invitation-only US National Academy of Sciences’ scoping meeting on The role of animal agriculture in a sustainable 21st century global food system, held in Washington DC’s Dupont Circle.

Among the conclusions Herrero makes in his slide presentation, Food security, livelihoods and livestock in the developing world, is the need to change our agricultural investment paradigms so that we invest not only in the high-potential agricultural lands of the past (many of which, he says, are already ‘maxed out’), but also in the agricultural lands of the future.

What are these ‘agricultural lands of the future’? Well, those on which relatively extensive mixed crop-and-livestock systems are being practiced, for one.

For more on this topic, see ILRI’s current corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010, the foreword of which, by ILRI director general Carlos Seré and ILRI board chair Knut Hove, follows.

ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2011: Cover

ILRI’s Carlos Seré and Knut Hove say it’s ‘mixed farms’,
more than breadbaskets or ricebowls,
that will feed the world over the next two decades.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

This year’s corporate report by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) looks ‘back to the future’—to the thousand million farmers practicing small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock agriculture in poor countries—the kind of seemingly old-fashioned family farming systems that have become so fashionable in recent years among those wanting to reform the industrial food systems of rich countries.

Scientists at ILRI and seven other leading international agricultural research organizations around the world recently looked at the future of this form of farming and determined that it is ‘mixed farms’—not breadbaskets or ricebowls—that will feed most people over the next two decades.

Their report shows that it is not big efficient farms on high potential lands but rather one billion small ‘mixed’ family farmers tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few chickens and pigs, a herd of goats or a cow or two on relatively extensive rainfed lands who feed most of the world’s poor people today. This same group, the report indicates, is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades, as world population grows and peaks (at 9 billion or so) with the addition of another 3 billion people.

Remarkably, this is the first study ever to investigate the state of the world’s most prevalent kind of farmers—those who keep animals as well as grow crops. A major implication of the new report is that governments and researchers are mistaken to continue looking to high-potential lands and single-commodity farming systems as the answer to world hunger. As the study shows, many highly intensive agricultural systems are reaching their peak capacity to produce food and should now focus on sustaining rather than increasing yields.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those mixing crops with livestock on ‘in between’ lands—neither high-potential farmlands nor low-potential rangelands—are heavyweights in global food security.

The authors of this multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary study, most belonging to centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agree with many other experts that we need to bring our focus back to small-scale farms. But this report goes further, distinguishing one particular kind of small-scale farmer that should be our focus: this is the mixed farmer growing crops and raising animals in the world’s more extensive agricultural systems, which are described in detail on the next page.

These ‘mixed extensive’ farms make up the biggest, poorest and most environmentally sustainable agricultural system in the world. It is time we invested heavily in this particular kind of farming system. Here is where there remain the biggest yield gaps. Here is where we can make the biggest difference.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale farming in developing countries are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards this particular, most ubiquitous, and till now most neglected, form of agriculture. What this ‘extensive frontier’ needs are the most basic forms of infrastructure and services. With these at hand, the world’s extensive mixed farmers will be in good position to scale up their food production to meet future needs.

Read ILRI’s corporate report: Back to the future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems, 2010.

Watch a 4-minute ILRI photofilm (audio with still pictures) illustrating the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers: Tribute to the Unsung Heroes of Small-scale Food Production, 2011.

Those wanting more detail on the future of mixed farming should consult the research report by the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme: Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agroecosystems services and human well-being to 2030, 2009.

‘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.

Livestock and­ the environment: As the hard trade-offs look to get only get harder, more nuanced approaches to livestock development are needed

Boy and goats in Rajasthan

Ramand Ram with goats in his family’s plot in Rajasthan, India. Intensifying mixed crop-and-livestock farming and helping livestock keepers diversify their sources of income can protect livestock livelihoods (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Researchers say that poor countries can protect both livestock livelihoods and environments by promoting measures such as sustainably intensifying mixed crop-and-livestock farming, paying livestock keepers for the ecosystem services they provide, helping pastoralists diversify their sources of income and managing the demand for livestock products.

Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the Animal Production Systems Group at Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, report in a proceedings published last November (2010) that there are ‘significant opportunities in livestock systems for improving environment management while also improving the livelihoods of poor people.’

The publication, titled The Role of Livestock in Developing Communities: Enhancing Multifunctionality, was co-published by the University of the Free State South Africa, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation and ILRI. The authors say that even though livestock production is already harming some environments, with such damage likely to increase in some regions in coming years due to an increasing demand from rapidly expanding populations in the developing world, new research-based options for livestock production can help improve both the livelihoods and environments of hundreds of millions of very poor people who raise farm animals or sell or consume their milk, meat and eggs.

The researchers propose shifting the debate on livestock and environment from one that focuses solely on the negative impacts of livestock production to one that embraces the complexity of livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’, particularly in developing countries, where livestock serve as a lifeline to many poor people.

The researchers say a good understanding of the environmental impacts of livestock production depends on distinguishing these impacts by region and production system and by addressing environmental problems along with problems of food insecurity and inequity.

The authors, who include ILRI scientists Mario Herrero, Phil Thornton, An Notenbaert, Shirley Tarawali and Delia Grace, recommend making a ‘fundamental shift’ in how demand for livestock products is seen and in adapting production systems to meet this demand. They suggest, for example, that policymakers consider ways of reducing demand for livestock products in (mostly industrialized) countries where (1) people are damaging their health by consuming too much meat, eggs and milk and (2) intensive ‘factory’ farming is damaging the environment.

The scientists also recommend finding ways of improving water management in livestock production. Recent findings show that livestock water use represents 31 per cent of the total water used for agriculture. The authors report that ‘in rangeland systems, water productivity can be improved by better rangeland management, which has the potential to reduce water use in agriculture by 45 per cent by 2050.’ Another promising idea is to begin paying livestock farmers for the rangeland water purification and other ecosystem services they maintain for the good of the wider community.

To reduce greenhouse gases from livestock systems, the authors recommend that efforts be put in place to intensify production systems in developing countries to produce more livestock products per unit of methane gas. ‘We need to provide significant incentives so that the marginal rangeland areas, often rich in biodiversity, can be protected for the benefit of farmers.’ Other options for reducing livestock-associated greenhouse gasses include improving animal diets, controlling animal numbers and shifting the kinds of breeds kept.

Although diseases transmitted between livestock and people also need to be addressed by research, the book notes that the ‘net effects of livestock on human health are positive,’ particularly due to livestock’s role in providing nourishing food for the poor and the contribution livestock herders make to regulating vast rangeland ecosystems, with their wildlife populations, which often helps prevent animals diseases from spilling over to human populations. Better use of disease control methodologies and investments will also help prevent the spread of these diseases.

The authors acknowledge that such changes in the way that livestock production is viewed will require a ‘subtle balancing act’ and commitments by a wide range of players in the scientific, development and policymaking communities. But without a more nuanced understanding of livestock production in the face of hard trade-offs between livestock and the environment, we could jeopardize the livestock livelihoods of many of the world’s ‘bottom billion’.

This article is summary of the chapter ‘The Way Forward for Livestock and the Environment’ in the The Role of Livestock in Developing Communities: Enhancing Multifunctionality.

Download the full text

For more information read this related ILRI News article.

State of the World 2011: Innovations Nourishing the Planet

State of the World: Innovations that Nourish the Planet: Cover State of the World 2011 provides new insight into under-appreciated innovations working right now on the ground to alleviate hunger (photo credit: Worldwatch Institute).

This week Worldwatch Institute released its flagship publication, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet. The report spotlights successful and efficient ways of alleviating global hunger and poverty.

Agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero and other staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are the authors of Chapter 14, ‘Improving food production from livestock’.

While investment in agricultural development by governments, international lenders, and foundations has escalated in recent years, it is still nowhere near what is needed to help the 925 million people who are undernourished. Since the mid-1980s when agricultural funding was at its height, agriculture’s share of global development aid has fallen from over 16 per cent to just 4 per cent today.

‘The international community has been neglecting entire segments of the food system in its efforts to reduce hunger and poverty,’ said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project.

State of the World 2011 draws from hundreds of case studies and first-person examples to offer solutions to reducing hunger and poverty.

For example, grassroots organizations are helping to fight hunger in Africa, which has the world’s largest area of permanent pasture and the largest number of pastoralists and 15–25 million people dependent on livestock. In South Africa and Kenya, pastoralists are preserving indigenous varieties of livestock that are adapted to the heat and drought of local conditions—traits that will be crucial as climate extremes on the continent worsen. In Maralal in the northern region of Kenya, one group of Maasai pastoralists is working with the Africa LIFE Network to increase their rights as keepers of both genetic diversity and the land. Jacob Wanyama, coordinator for the African LIFE Network and advisor to the Nourishing the Planet Project, says Ankole cattle—a breed indigenous to Eastern Africa and traditionally used by pastoralists in the area for centuries—are not only ‘beautiful to look at,’ but are one of the ‘highest quality’ breeds.’ They can survive in extremely harsh, dry conditions—something that’s more important than ever as climate change takes a bigger hold on Africa. ‘Governments need to recognize,’ says Wanyama, ‘that pastoralists are the best keepers of genetic diversity.’

The State of the World 2011 report is accompanied by other informational materials including briefing documents, summaries, an innovations database, videos, and podcasts, all of which are available at www.NourishingthePlanet.com.

In conducting this research, Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project received unprecedented access to major international research institutions, including those like ILRI in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. The team also interacted extensively with farmers and farmers’ unions as well as with the banking and investment communities.

This report was produced with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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.

Nairobi Science and Policy Forum holds roundtable discussions at ILRI’s Nairobi campus

4th Meeting of the Nairobi Science and Policy Forum held at ILRI, Nairobi Campus on 21Sept 2010

The International Research Livestock Institute hosted the 4th meeting of the Nairobi Science and Policy Forum on Tuesday, 21 September 2010. This Forum takes advantage of a unique location of several science and policy organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and CGIAR Centres like ILRI that belong to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, in Nairobi. Members are building case studies and scenarios for policy briefs based on the best scientific evidence as well as networking among like-minded stakeholders to advance the objectives of the Forum.

The topic of discussion at this 4th meeting was ‘Drivers of change in crop-livestock systems and their potential impacts on agro-ecosystems services and human well-being to 2030’, presented by Mario Herrero, leader of the Sustainable Livestock Futures group at ILRI. His team is assessing the trade-offs in using environments for ecosystem services or to produce food and income. Its aim is to support and guide policies and investment strategies and to improve agricultural livelihoods and environmental resilience. This group will address issues of policies, institutions and political ecology, including gender, power relations and access to ecosystem services. It will consider drivers of change such as global trade, urbanization, climate change and energy demand.

While membership is not closed to organizations that are not based in Nairobi, a key characteristic of the Forum is that it will be a venue for face-to-face dialogue and consensus among organizations engaged in science and policymaking in the arena of agriculture and the environment. It is expected that membership will continue to evolve and increase.

Greener pastures and better breeds could reduce carbon ‘hoofprint’

Baoshan Community Dairy Feeding Centre

Cows at the Boashan Community Dairy Feeding Centre, in Yunnan Province, China (photo credit: ILRI / Mann).

A new study by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) finds reductions in greenhouse gasses could be worth a billion dollars to poor livestock farmers if they could sell saved carbon on international markets.

Greenhouse gas emissions caused by livestock operations in tropical countries—a major contributor to climate change—could be cut significantly by changing diets and breeds and improving degraded lands, according to a new study published today in the U.S. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. And as an added bonus, scientists found the small changes in production practices could provide a big payoff by providing poor farmers with up to US$1.3 billion annually in payments for carbon offsets.

'These technologically straightforward steps in livestock management could have a meaningful effect on greenhouse gas build-up, while simultaneously generating income for poor farmers,' said Philip Thornton, of ILRI, who co-authored the paper with ILRI’s Mario Herrero.  

Livestock enterprises contribute about 18% of the world’s greenhouse gases, largely through deforestation to make room for livestock grazing and feed crops, the methane ruminant animals give off, and the nitrous oxide emitted by manure. Many worry these greenhouse gas emissions could grow due to increased livestock production to meet surging demand for meat and milk in developing countries.

Thornton and Herrero believe there are options readily available to prevent up to 417 million tons of carbon dioxide expected to be produced by livestock in tropical countries by 2030—a sum representing a savings of about 7% of all livestock-related global greenhouse gas emissions.

'Of course,' says Thornton, 'if we also manage to bring down consumption of meat and milk in rich countries, the amount of carbon saved will be even greater.' The difference between livestock production in rich and poor countries is a big concern to Thornton. 'We conducted this study to try to disentangle some of the complexities surrounding livestock systems, particularly those in developing countries. Livestock systems are not all the same, and there are large differences in their carbon footprint, their importance for the poor, and their mitigation potential.'

Most reductions of livestock-produced greenhouse gases would have to come from the more than half a billion livestock keepers in tropical countries. But the study finds that these struggling farmers could be motivated to adopt more climate-friendly practices.

'It would be a useful incentive if these farmers were allowed to sell the reductions they achieve as credits on global carbon markets,' Thornton said. 'We found that at US$20 per ton—which is what carbon was trading for last week on the European Climate Exchange—poor livestock keepers in tropical countries could generate about US$1.3 billion each year in carbon revenues.' Although carbon payments would not amount to a lot more income for each individual farmer (such payments might represent an increase in individual income of up to 15%), such payments should provide a tipping point for many smallholders considering intensifying their livestock production.

According to the ILRI study, livestock-related greenhouse gas reductions could be quickly achieved in tropical countries by modifying production practices, such as switching to more nutritious pasture grasses, supplementing diets with even small amounts of crop residues or grains, restoring degraded grazing lands, planting trees that both trap carbon and produce leaves that cows can eat, and adopting more productive breeds.

'We wanted to consider the impact in tropical countries because they are at the epicentre of a livestock revolution,' said Herrero. 'We expect consumption of milk and meat to roughly double in the developing world by 2050, which means it’s critical to adopt sustainable approaches now that contain and reduce the negative effects of livestock production, while allowing countries to realize the benefits, such as better nutrition and higher incomes for livestock-producing households.'

Herrero and Thornton said that changing diets and breeds could increase the amount of milk and meat produced by individual animals, thus reducing emissions because farmers would require fewer animals. For example, in Latin America, they note that switching cows from natural grasslands to pastures sown with a more nutritious grass called Brachiaria can increase daily milk production and weight gain by up to three-fold. This increase, they said, means fewer animals are needed to satisfy demand. In addition, Brachiaria also absorbs, or 'sequesters,' more carbon than degraded natural grasslands.

'Even if only about 30% of livestock owners in the region switch from natural grass to Brachiaria, which is what we consider a plausible adoption rate, that alone could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 30 million tons per year,' Thornton said.

Herrero and Thornton also said that, for a given level of demand, fewer animals would be needed if more farmers supplemented grazing with feed consisting of crop residues (often called 'stover'), such as the leaves and stalks of sorghum or maize plants, or with grains. In addition, they note there is the potential to boost production per animal by crossbreeding local with genetically improved breeds, the latter of which can provide more milk and meat than traditional breeds while emitting less methane per kilo of meat or milk produced.

Planting trees that have agricultural and feed uses, a practice known as 'agroforestry,' has the benefit of reducing feed costs for animals, while the trees themselves absorb carbon. Herrero and Thornton found that of the 33 million tons of carbon dioxide that could be reduced through wider use of agroforestry in livestock operations, almost two-thirds of it—72%—would come from the 'carbon sequestration' effects of the trees.

Carols Seré, ILRI’s Director General, said Thornton and Herrero’s work usefully steers the discussion of livestock’s contribution to climate change from blunt criticism of the impact of farm animals to meaningful efforts to address the environmental consequences of their increased production.

'There is a tendency today to simply demonize livestock as a cause of climate change without considering their importance, particularly for poor farmers in the developing world,' Seré said.

'Most of the farmers we work with have a relatively small environmental footprint,' he added, 'and they are intensely dependent on their animals for food, for income, and even as "engines" to plough their fields and transport their crops. What these farmers need are technological options and economic incentives that help them intensify their production in sustainable ways. Carbon payments would be a welcome additional incentive inducing such changes in smallholder livestock production.'

Key messages from the publication
(1) The impact of any given livestock intervention on mitigating total greenhouse gas emissions will be small.
To make a difference, we will need to implement many interventions and do so simultaneously. Mitigating the impacts of livestock systems on climate change will require taking a series of small incremental steps and implementing a wide range of different mitigation strategies to reduce carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions.

(2) We should aim for fewer, better fed, farm and herd animals.
Apart from strategies to sequester greater amounts of carbon, all strategies for mitigating greenhouse gases appear to require the intensification of animal diets and a reduction in animal numbers to produce the same volume of meat and milk.

(3) Ways to mitigate greenhouse gases in tropical livestock systems are technologically straightforward.
Apart from strategies to sequester carbon, all strategies for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions tested could be implemented at farm level with the appropriate economic and other incentives for resource-poor farmers.

(4) GHG mitigation strategies can be pro-poor.
Paying small-scale livestock farmers and herders for practices that help sequester carbon (under REDD or similar incentive schemes), although not trivial in management terms, would help smallholders generate greater and more diversified incomes.

(5) Mitigation strategies can also support strategies to help smallholders adapt to climate change.
Some interventions aiming to reduce greenhouse gases will also serve to help people cope with more unpredictable and extreme weather.

(6) All strategies will need to include appropriate incentives for smallholders.
A major incentive for small-scale livestock producers to change their production practices will be the increasing demand for livestock products in developing countries. But many smallholders will also need other economic incentives and more user-friendly technologies in order to make even straightforward changes in their production practices. 

Read the whole paper at the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: The potential for reduced methane and carbon dioxide emissions from livestock and pasture management in the tropics, 6 September 2010.