- Agriculture, including livestock as well as crop production, makes up about a third (30%) of the global greenhouse gases that are generated by human activity and warming our planet.
- About half of these agricultural emissions are caused by deforestation and soil carbon losses; the rest is largely generated by livestock (and some artificial fertilizer use).
- In Africa, lack of relevant technology and infrastructure means that no reliable data yet exists on the levels of greenhouse gas emissions generated by the continent’s livestock in the form of methane and nitrous oxide. Consequently, estimates of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions based mainly on research from industrialized nations are being assigned to African countries, obscuring the real situation and hampering efforts to determine emission hotspots and actions with greatest potential to mitigate the continent’s emissions.
- African governments lack the information they need to develop legislation to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
- Given that 70% of Africa’s people still farm for a living, it is critical that such legislation include policies that help resource-poor farmers decrease the environmental footprint of their small-scale livestock production systems while at the same time increasing their livestock and whole-farm production efficiencies, thereby improving their livelihoods.
- Until now there has been little incentive for Africa’s farmers or governments to reduce the environmental footprint of their smallholder agricultural practices, but this is changing.
- Agricultural and climate change experts in industrialized countries are beginning to appreciate both the threat and the opportunities presented by Africa’s fast-growing human and livestock populations and agricultural sectors. Entities such as the Green Climate Fund, founded to distribute money from developed to developing countries, are now seeking to engage African policymakers in supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and practices.
- Improving agricultural productivity, particularly in the livestock sector, and halting or reversing land degradation, which releases soil carbon into the atmosphere are two major ways to significantly decrease Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions per unit of agricultural and livestock product.
- Both of these agricultural and land use strategies, which are urgently needed to feed Africa’s growing human population, particularly its exploding demand for milk, meat and eggs, are hampered by a dearth of relevant and reliable information.
- The Mazingira Centre, which was established by ILRI in 2014, is located at its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, and staffed by scientists and technicians from ILRI. The centre promises a step change in Africa’s environmental research infrastructure and capacity.
Staff at Mazingira Centre and its partners are establishing:
- The first accurate and verifiable greenhouse gas emission levels generated by crop and livestock production practices and land-use changes in Africa;
- Robust frameworks for assessing the socio-economic impacts of environmental degradation on the continent;
- New means of monitoring African land degradation, soil fertility, soil erosion and hydrology at farm to landscape scales; and
- Experimental programs, building on ILRI’s long-standing feed and forage expertise, to develop ruminant feeding regimes that improve animal production while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk or meat.
The Mazingira Centre and its partners will deliver:
- Improved agricultural production pathways that reduce the environmental footprint of smallholder systems; and
- Implementation strategies designed to suit landscape to regional programs.
- Since climate change and its associated global warming represent some of the greatest threats faced by Africa’s millions of small-scale farmers, investments in the Mazingira Centre, detailed below, have been substantial.
- State-of-the-art equipment
- Laser spectroscopy and gas chromatography instruments.
- Livestock respiration chambers.
- Micrometeorological instrumentation.
- Automated soils emissions chambers.
- Highly skilled and dedicated scientists
- Unique, multinational, cross-disciplinary teams.
- Leading specialists in diverse fields: e.g. soils, agroforestry, biogeochemistry, socio-economics, ruminant physiology and animal production.
- A capacity development focus
- Drawing MSc and PhD students from across Africa.
- Training local technicians.
- Mentoring Africa’s future environmental and agricultural production scientists through sabbaticals and workshops.