CRP 7 Clippings

‘Mixing it up’ down on the farm to better adapt to climate change

Farmer Learning Event, Lower Nyando

Raising animals as well as growing crops is a key strategy for small-scale farmers adapting to climate change (photo credit: CCAFS/Vivian Atakos).

We are not aware of any studies to date that compare the costs and benefits
of the range of [climate] adaptation possibilities
in the mixed systems of sub-Saharan Africa in any comprehensive way.

A neglected part of climate change adaptation research—investigations of the ubiquitous mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems that are the backbone of food production across the developing world—is highlighted in a recent article in Nature Climate Change.

The authors are Philip Thornton, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and Mario Herrero, formerly of ILRI and now at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), in Australia.

As Bruce Campbell, director of CCAFS, notes:

This [dearth of data] is true not only for ‘mixed systems’
but also for climate information services, for insurance, for social safety nets, etc. There is very, very little data on the social as well as economic and environmental
costs and benefits of different approaches to helping smallholders
better adapt to climate change.
—Bruce Campbell, CCAFS

Below are excerpts of an article on this topic published this week by Cecilia Schubert, of CCAFS.

‘For millions of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and other parts of the developing world, deciding between growing crops and rearing animals has never been up for discussion. Instead farmers here mix it up, as keeping both livestock and crops on the farm provide milk for the family, meat and vegetables on the table and crops to sell on the market.

‘A recent perspective piece published in Nature Climate Change by researchers Philip Thornton and Mario Herrero suggests that we still know very little about how climate change will impact these mixed farms and especially the interactions between crops and livestock. This is alarming as mixed farming systems form the backbone of smallholder production in developing countries,producing over 90% of the world’s milk supply and 80% of the meat from ruminants.

‘It is clear to see how important these systems are to millions of people, contributing heavily to livelihoods and incomes, and even the globe’s food supply. Making sure mixed farmers know the way forward for effective climate adaptation and resilience building is crucial.

‘There are a number of climate-smart farming options that support climate adaptation, mitigation and improve food security that mixed farmers can pick up.

‘These options use the fact that there are both livestock and crops grown on the farm and how these can interplay to strengthen climate resilience. . . .

Through a better understanding and continued support for farmers to mix things up on the farm, millions of smallholders can start to build resilience against a changing and more variable climate.

Read the whole article by Cecilia Schubert, of CCAFS, on the Thompson Reuters Foundation ‘Trust’ site: Why mixing it up on the farm is key for climate change adaptation, 16 Sep 2015.

Read the science perspective article in Nature Climate Change: Adapting to climate change in the mixed crop and livestock farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa, by Philip Thornton and Mario Herrero.

Philip Thornton is a researcher with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and a flagship leader at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). Mario Herrero works at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

Filed under: Africa, Article, CGIAR, Climate Change, Crop-Livestock, CRP7, Farming Systems, ILRI, Livestock Systems, LSE Tagged: CCAFS, Cecilia Schubert, Mario Herrero, Nature Climate Change, Philip Thornton, Thompson Reuters Foundation 'Trust' site

Ethiopian insurance company to pay Borena livestock herders compensations ahead of drought season

Borana sheep and goats

Herding sheep and goats in Borena, Ethiopia (picture credit: ILRI/ Zerihun Sewunet).

‘Oromia Insurance Company (OIC), the lone index based insurer of livestock in the country, has launched a new scheme that will entail paying compensation for livestock ahead of the drought season instead of after, as it was originally done.

‘The company uses what is called index-based-livestock-insurance (IBLI). This insurance coverage is applicable only in the Borena Zone of the Oromia Region, and targets the two drought seasons of the area called Hageya and Hudulissa.

‘Owners of livestock insured under the IBLI will be getting money for the sustenance of their animals, an asset protection, through the two major dry seasons in the region. The new scheme, introduced this month in response to demands from policy holders, calculates the cost resources needed to keep the animals alive during the anticipated drought.

‘Though premiums are lower than those of the previous scheme, the asset replacement, OIC has also found it more profitable, according to Daniel Negassa, head of OIC’s Micro-insurance Department.

‘The premium for camels is 5,000 Br; 3,000 Br for cows and oxen, and 500 Br for sheep and goats. These values are calculated based on the market price of forage, and administration and labour costs involved in the animals having access to the forage. The respective figures under the old system were 10,000 Br, 5,000 Br and 800 Br, based on the average market value of the livestock.

‘OIC started this insurance coverage in August 2012 in collaboration with Cornell University and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The scheme currently covers 2,612 households. . . .

ILRI’s IBLI was able to identify which risk management practices are effective and efficient for pastoralists in mitigating risk of drought arising from shocks as to build resilience of pastoralists. Therefore, ILRI/IBLI identified first the options of these contract features,” Masresha Taye IBLI Ethiopia programme coordinator, research officer at ILRI told Fortune. . . .

‘According to the Central Statistics Agency of Ethiopia 2014/15 Agricultural Sample Survey, Borena Zone has 1.1 million cattle, 439,082 sheep, 878, 355 goats and 77,147 camels.

Activities are underway to work with the government of Ethiopia and big multilateral donors are showing interest to scale up the product in other pastoral regions of Ethiopia, mainly Afar and Somali regions,” Masresha, who is in Kenya, told Fortune through an email interview.

‘Regionally, IBLI was first introduced in January 2010 in Marsabit, northern Kenya and it then expanded to Isiolo, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera in Kenya and Borena in Ethiopia in 2013.

‘In all of these areas, 10,067 policies have been sold and 149,007 dollars have been paid as indemnities until April 2015, according to research by the International Livestock Research Institute titled The Favourable Impacts of Index-Based Livestock Insurance: Evaluation Results from Ethiopia and Kenya.’

Read the whole article in Addis Fortune: OIC launches new insurance scheme for vulnerable livestock, 19 Aug 2015

Filed under: Article, CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, ILRI, Insurance, Kenya, LSE, Pastoralism, Rangelands, Vulnerability Tagged: Cornell University, IBLI, Maresha Taye

Just how much gas does Africa’s livestock produce? A new environmental lab sets up to find out


The mobile greenhouse gas measuring laboratory of ILRI’s Mazingira Centre (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

‘Scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya have established a state-of-the-art laboratory to help find a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from livestock in Africa.

‘The laboratory, which has equipment such as respiration chambers and manure management gadgets, is the first of its kind in Africa and started operating in April this year, according to the scientists at the institute who spoke during a visit to the ILRI by the UK chief science advisor Mark Walport last month (15 July).

“The livestock-related research on GHGs will help determine real measures of emissions data to help explore realistic, locally adapted mitigation strategies in reducing global warming,” said Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, a principal scientist, livestock systems and environment, ILRI. . . .

“Unfortunately there is no reliable data on GHG emissions from livestock production in Africa due to lack of both technology and infrastructure that could generate such data,” Butterbach-Bahl added. ‘With this laboratory, Africa will now be able to generate its own data on GHG emission levels as opposed to previous instances.

‘. . . From their data analyses, scientists will accurately measure emissions from livestock and manure and then link them to livestock productivity, feed intake, and health, said Butterbach-Bahl, adding that part of the analysis will involve the use of the latest versions of automatic respiration chambers, which measure the results of livestock feedings of differing grains and at different intake levels.

‘The laboratory has been constructed at a cost of US$1.5 million, with funding from the German Development Agency in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research, United Nations Environment Programme, International Fund for Agricultural Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. . . .’

Read the whole article by Duncan Mboyah in SciDevNet: New lab aids monitoring of gas emissions from livestock, 7 Aug 2015.

Filed under: Africa, Article, Climate Change, CRP7, ILRI, Kenya, LSE Tagged: CIFOR, GHG emissions, IFAD, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, SciDevNet, UNEP

Toughening animal agriculture for worse climate with ‘preventive breeding’–Scientific American


Minoan terracotta bull’s head, 14th-century BC (via Christie’s).

Animal diseases cost cash-strapped African farmers about $300 billion a year in lost income and veterinary bills. Now scientists are proactively breeding livestock with defenses against these pests before they strike. Scientists from . . . CGIAR . . . are setting up a “preemptive breeding” program to develop livestock with resistance to potential widespread outbreaks of currently localized diseases to help reduce some of the losses that would occur.

‘Most of the world’s 38 billion livestock are kept in Africa where they face threats from diseases, reduced grazing land and a lack of vaccines. Livestock in Europe or the U.S., by contrast, are rarely lacking in food and medicine, says Okeyo Mwai, a livestock geneticist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya. “Most of the problems are in Africa where the costs of treating diseases are huge. As climate change makes diseases spread to new areas, that figure will rise astronomically,” Mwai says.

CGIAR scientists presented their preemptive breeding strategy and new evidence of threats from climate change to the science advisory body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on June 4.

‘Current breeding strategies are inadequate because they are too slow to respond to disease outbreaks and climate challenges, the CGIAR researchers told the UNFCCC science advisory body. “The level of losses can be reduced if we proactively breed animals that are resistant and don’t require direct treatment,” Mwai says. . . .

‘For example, the Maasai tribe in Kenya have over many years bred sheep that are resistant to a deadly parasitic worm. The scientists are now working with these farmers to help introduce this breed to new areas that are suffering with high levels of the parasite. . . .

The scientists . . . are planning a research program that will use genome editing to take genetic material from resistant breeds and paste it into susceptible ones. This technology will allow a much more “precise” approach to creating animals with desirable traits.

‘In contrast, traditional breeding methods “mix and match” genes by mating individuals “in the hope” of producing individuals beneficial traits, Mwai says. But sexual reproduction offers no guarantees that offspring will exhibit the desired traits of the parents.

We need precision, not shotgun breeding, [Mwai] says.

Read the whole article by Natasha Gilbert in Scientific American, Preemptive genetics girds farmers for climate extremes and disease, 10 Jun 2015.

Read the new report, developed to inform decisions at the UN climate talks (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) in Bonn, Germany, in Jun 2015: Climate and livestock disease: Assessing the vulnerability of agricultural systems to livestock pests under climate change scenarios, Jun 2015, Working Paper No. 116, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), by ILRI scientists Delia Grace, Bernard Bett, Johanna Lindahl and Timothy Robinson.

View more CCAFS-published materials for UN climate talks in Bonn, Jun 2015 highlighting critical agricultural issues for the UN climate talks.

Filed under: ABS, Animal Breeding, Article, Biotechnology, CGIAR, Climate Change, CRP4, CRP7, Disease Control, ILRI, Indigenous Breeds Tagged: CCAFS, Delia Grace, Okeyo Mwai, Preventive breeding, SBSTA, Scientific American, UNFCCC

New livestock maps pinpoint ‘danger zones’ for possible spread of deadly H7N9 strain of bird flu

Feeding poultry, Bangladesh. Photo by WorldFish, 2006

Feeding poultry in Bangladesh (photo on Flickr by WorldFish).

A recent paper that maps the global distributions of the world’s major livestock species has already been used to advance understanding of where surveillance efforts should be targeted to prevent the possible spread of a lethal bird flu virus now circulating in poultry populations in China, where it has killed 62 people. The original mapping work, led by Tim Robinson, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and published at the end of May, was immediately put to practical use in locating large regions in South and Southeast Asia that would suit the new lethal virus. Ominously, unlike H5N1, a viral strain of bird flu that has killed millions of poultry and at least 359 humans since its first appearance in 1987, H7N9 does not cause severe illness in the chickens it infects, making it much more difficult to detect, and thus to control.

Here’s the BBC’s James Gallagher on the significance of the bird flu paper that came out in Nature Communications 17 Jun 2014.

‘The “danger zones” in Asia which are vulnerable to a deadly bird flu have been mapped by scientists.

‘The virus, called H7N9, has infected 433 people mostly in China and has killed 62.

The study, published in Nature Communications, showed parts of Bangladesh, India and Vietnam could easily sustain the virus. The research group said those areas should monitor poultry to ensure any threat is detected.

‘The H7N9 virus spread from birds to people and was first detected in March 2013 in China.

‘New viruses are always a concern because of their unknown potential to spread round the world as a deadly pandemic.

‘Data from the H7N9 outbreak was used to build a computer model of other at-risk areas in Asia.

‘It involved mapping 8,000 live-poultry markets and assessing how close together they needed to be to spread the infection.

The map does not show where the virus will end up next, just those areas where conditions are suitable to sustain the virus if it managed to get there. Bangladesh, northern India, the Mekong and Red River deltas in Vietnam and isolated parts of Indonesia and Philippines were identified as at-risk areas.

‘Thailand was not a risk zone due to cultural differences, which mean live-poultry markets are not common. It is also noticeable that the whole of China is not equally at risk.

H7N9 is not deadly in birds so there is no “body count” to help track the spread of the disease.

‘Dr Tim Robinson, a senior spatial analyst at the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, told the BBC: “It is a risk map showing, if the virus arrived to an area, how likely it would be to spread and continue from there.

H7N9 can spread very quietly throughout the poultry population. The main use of the maps is to target surveillance, I think these maps can show areas where there’s a high chance of the disease flaring up if it arrives.—Tim Robinson . . . .

Read the whole article by James Gallagher in the BBC: Bird flu ‘danger zones’ mapped, 17 Jun 2014.

Read other news clippings
China Daily
‘The H7N9 bird flu virus, which has caused severe illness and deaths in China, may inhabit only a fraction of its 
potential range and could possibly spread to India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines, according to a study published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications. The emergence and spread of the disease has been linked until now mainly with areas that have a high concentration of markets selling live birds, but it does not appear related to China’s growing number of intensive commercial poultry operations, it found.’

Fast Company
‘A massive global map of where all the cattle, pigs, and other livestock live: As the world’s protein appetite explodes, mapping the world’s 19.6 billion chickens and 1.4 billion cattle will help scientists track disease and pollution hotspots. China has many times the human population of the U.S., and the same is true for pigs: It has 450 million of them, seven times the U.S. population. That’s one of the interesting things you can learn from a new set of maps that show the global distribution of livestock–all 1.4 billion cattle, 1.9 billion sheep and goats, 980 million pigs, and 19.6 billion chickens out there. Did you know that most of Argentina’s land area is given over to cattle? Or that most U.S. chickens live in the south? . . .’

Agence France Presse/Channel NewsAsia
‘Five Asian countries could join China as targets for the H7N9 bird flu virus that has claimed about a hundred lives since it erupted in March 2013, scientists said on Tuesday. . . .’

Science News
‘Avian flu could strike Asian poultry markets outside China, particularly in cities near water, H7N9 influenza could take hold, researchers predict. If it spreads beyond China’s borders, the H7N9 avian influenza virus could take hold in Vietnam’s Mekong and Red River deltas, the Bengal region of India and in parts of the Philippines and Indonesia, a new study predicts. The virus has infected 449 people in China, many of whom had visited live poultry markets. . . .’

Read the research papers
Predicting the risk of avian influenza A H7N9 infection in live-poultry markets across Asia, Nature Communications 5, 17 June 2014, by Marius Gilbert (Université Libre de Bruxelles), Nick Golding (University of Oxford), Hongjie Yu (Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention), Tim Robinson (ILRI) and others.

Mapping the global distribution of livestock, in PLOS ONE, 29 May 2014, by Timothy Robinson (ILRI), G R William Wint (University of Oxford), Giulia Conchedda (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations [FAO]), Marius Gilbert (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and others.

Read earlier articles
posted on ILRI’s News Blog about the PLOS ONE livestock mapping paper and the Nature Communications bird flu paper.

Filed under: Article, Asia, Bangladesh, China, CRP12, CRP4, CRP7, Disease Control, Emerging Diseases, Epidemiology, Geodata, Health (human), ILRI, India, Indonesia, LSE, PA, Philippines, Vietnam, Zoonotic Diseases Tagged: Avian influenza, BBC, H7N9, Marius Gilbert, Nature Communications, PLOS ONE, Tim Robinson

East and Southern Africa drylands learning event on community based adaptation and resilience

The impacts of climate change are threatening the livelihoods of already vulnerable pastoralist, agro pastoralist and farming communities in East and Southern African drylands. In order to meet the scale and magnitude of these challenges, where extreme events and recurrent drought will be ongoing features, actors in development, adaptation, disaster risk management, social protection and humanitarian action are recognizing the need to focus on achieving resilient outcomes.

Community based adaptation (CBA) to climate change is providing valuable practical approaches and evidence of use for drylands related programmes and policy decisions.

Aim of the learning event
Bringing together stakeholders from a diverse range of disciplines working with dryland communities across East and Southern Africa, the aim of the event is to facilitate learning from experiences and evidence on climate change adaptation, in particular CBA, and resilience. Participants will co-generate new insights on the links between CBA and achieving resilient development.

The conference will explore:

  1. What is the added value that CBA practical experience brings to achieving resilience in dryland communities?
  2. How are climate change and related responses exacerbating the entrenched drivers of differential vulnerability among communities living in drylands? What are the barriers and drivers to change?
  3. What would an integrated and coherent approach to achieving resilience in vulnerable dryland communities look like?

CARE Ethiopia will host the event together with CARE’s Adaptation Learning Programme (ALP), the CGIAR Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security programme (CCAFS) and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

Target audience: Practitioners working with drylands issues (government, non-government and donors) and researchers, who have knowledge and experiences to share on adaptation and resilience in drylands. Policy makers concerned with East and Southern African drylands are also welcome to register.

Participation will be dependent on the relevance of information shared in the registration form.

Location: ILRI complex, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Date: 1–4 September, 2014

Download the full concept note here

Express your interest to participate: download the registration form here and email it to

Deadline for registration: June 10 at midnight (GMT + 3)

Filed under: Climate Change, CRP7, Drylands, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Livelihoods, Pastoralism, Resilience, Southern Africa Tagged: ALP, CARE, CBA, CCAFS, ICIPE

New ‘G-range’ tool predicts how climate change will affect rangelands, which cover 45% of the world’s surface

Ethiopian rangeland

Typical rangeland of the Ethiopian highlands (Ethiopian rangeland (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

‘Understanding how climate change will affect rangelands is crucial as millions of people around the world depend on them for food and income. Now an innovative tool, going by the name G-Range, can help us simulate future changes that in turn supports climate adaptation.

‘We usually turn to computer simulation tools when we want to find out what our future climate will look like. For rangelands, which are natural landscapes in the form of grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, wetlands, and deserts, such tools are either for a specific part of the world or very complex, alternatively too simple.

Seeing as rangelands support the livelihoods of millions of people around the world and make up about 45 percent of the world’s surface (excluding Antarctica), there is a definite need to find ways to simulate how climate change will affect these parts of the world as well.

‘Building on this need, scientists from Colorado State University have just put the final touches on an interesting tool called: G-Range. It’s a tool that can simulate generalized changes in rangelands through time, with simulations that may span a few to thousands of years.

‘The tool is easy to use, and represents all global rangelands in a single simulation. It can simulate the growth of herbs, shrubs, and trees, and the change in the proportions of these plant types. . . .

‘The tool is distributed with spatial data and settings that let the model simulate global rangelands. Users will likely want to make changes for their areas of interest, but the files that come with the tool will serve as a good starting point. . . .

‘Randall Boone and Rich Conant, researchers at Colorado University and leading the G-range project, joined with Dr. Jason Sircely, post-doctoral scientist with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, to conduct the sensitivity analyses. In this work, the agreement between model output and published spatial data was of most interest. . . .

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) provided support to this tool.

Read the whole article on the CCAFS Blog: New tool simulates how climate change will affect our rangelands, 22 Apr 2014.

This story was put together by Cecilia Schubert, communications officer for the CCAFS Data & Tools team, together with Randall Boone and Rich Conant, research scientists at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory and faculty in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University. Conant is a joint appointee with ILRI.

Filed under: Article, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, ILRI, ILRIComms, LSE, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: Cecilia Schubert, Colorado State University, Jason Sircely, Randall Boone, Rich Conant

FeedSeed project trains forage seed entrepreneurs in Ethiopia

Trainees learning to plant forage seeds

Millions of poor livestock keepers depend on the availability of forages and fodder to feed their livestock throughout the year. In Ethiopia, and elsewhere, a critical constraint to the wide availability of animal feed or forage is the lack of profitable and sustainable forage seed companies.

The ‘FeedSeed’ project at the International Livestock Research Institute is working with national public and private partners to help create a sustainable forage seed supply system in Ethiopia. The idea is to help local entrepreneurs start up forage seed businesses, mainly by establishing a public business incubator that can provide training and mentoring to the entrepreneurs. Once going, these enterprises will produce and sell quality seeds to the wider farming community, increasing livestock productivity and raising incomes of livestock farmers.

From 7-11 April 2014, the project organized a technical and business skills development training course for potential forage seed entrepreneurs.

Hosted by project partners the Ethiopian Meat and Dairy Industry Development Institute (EMDIDI), the course assisted project business clients (farmers, private companies and cooperatives) to start up or expand forage seed businesses and ensure a good return on investment. The training covered both technical and business skills and also business development topics which were identified by the trainees during the pre-training assessment. Trainees also visited Eden Field Agri Seed Enterprise – another project partner – to better understand the business environment.

The project on ‘piloting climate-adaptive forage seed systems in Ethiopia (FeedSeed)’ is funded by the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Intenationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Filed under: Africa, Animal Feeding, ASSP, Capacity Strengthening, CRP7, East Africa, Ethiopia, Event, Feeds, Forages, ILRI, Seeds Tagged: BMZ, FeedSeed, GIZ

Having your cake and eating it too–Working both the production and consumption ends of ‘the meat question’

I and the Village, by Marc Chagall, 1911 (via Wikipaintings).

The Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) site has published (10 Apr 2014) an interesting comment on an interesting paper by Petr Havlík et al., Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, published in Feb 2014 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Several of the co-authors of this paper are scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Excerpts of the FCRN comments follow.

‘. . . This paper looks at the growth in ruminant production worldwide and at the emissions arising from that growth, under a range of different scenarios. It does not look at monogastric systems (pigs and poultry). . . .

‘The paper then looks at all five scenarios and assesses their mitigation effect in relation to the effect they have on overall per capita calorie availability. In other words it looks at what the calorie “cost” of these mitigation scenarios might be, arguing that this is critical given the prevalence of malnutrition worldwide.

‘It finds the following:

  • ‘The higher the carbon price, the greater the mitigation potential but also the higher the calorie cost.
  • ‘Targeting just land use change emissions achieves more mitigation per unit of calorie cost than targeting the non CO2 emissions. However, from a food security point of view, targeting the non CO2 gases (ie. largely the livestock sector) may be more efficient since livestock constitute a smaller overall share of calories than other foods – in other words, it doesn’t hit the non livestock food groups so badly.
  • ‘However – and this is the point that has been highlighted in all the media publicity surrounding this paper – measures that address consumption and demand directly (rather than supply) deliver less mitigation potential at higher calorie cost.
  • ‘The paper therefore concludes that a focus on consumption is inefficient and less effective than addressing the production side. . . .

‘[T]he way the paper’s findings have been represented in the press (and to a certain extent in the paper itself) might lead one to suppose that there is no role for consumption side measures. However this would be misleading for the following reasons:

‘Given the nature of the climate and environmental problems we face, we do not have the luxury of adopting an either-or position. Most commentators who highlight the need to address consumption also emphasise the need for production side approaches (eg. see the paper by Hedenus et al)

‘Following on from this, rather than have a polarised discussion about the merits of production versus consumption side approaches, a more interesting approach might be to examine how policies might be more effectively targeted at optimising and synergising production and consumption changes so as to deliver environmental (not just climate) improvements while also enhancing nutritional outcomes (including over as well as under consumption related issues). Approaches here will need to go beyond simplistically considering “the meat question” to look at the role, both positive and negative, of other foods as well. . . .’

Read the whole commentary on the FCRN site: FCRN summary and comments on Havlík et al, (2014), Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 10 Apr 2014.

Read the paper that elicted the comments: Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, by P Havlík, H Valin, M Herrero, M Obersteiner, E Schmid, M Rufino, A Mosnier, P Thornton, H Boettcher, R Conant, S Frank, S Fritz, S Fuss, F Kraxner and A Notenbaert, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), Feb 2014.

Filed under: Animal Production, Article, Climate Change, Consumption, CRP7, Environment, Food security, ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, Intensification, LSE, Opinion piece, PA Tagged: FCRN, greenhouse gas emissons, Petr Havlik, PNAS

The roads not taken: Should 1bn overfed people eat less meat? Or 1bn hungry farmers become more efficient?

The Butcher, by Marc Chagall, 1910 (via Wikipaintings).

Should you become vegetarian to help mitigate against global warming? Well, you could, or you might try just eating less meat, if you’re one of some 1 billion people chronically eating too much food. On the other hand, you might try helping some 1 billion small-scale livestock farmers in poor countries become more efficient.

What follows is how North America’s NPR program ‘The Salt’ recently set out the alternatives.

‘We Americans are heavy consumers of meat, and we’re increasingly reminded that eating less of it will shrink our carbon footprint. Growing the crops to feed all those animals releases lots of greenhouse gases.

‘But a new study argues that eating less meat isn’t a very practical climate-protection recipe for developing countries, where demand for meat is rising most quickly. The study’s authors say there’s a better path: Help farmers produce livestock more efficiently, and reduce the incentive to snap up new land to graze their animals.

‘The analysis, which appeared Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, starts with the stark reality of rising demand for animal products: It’s projected to double by 2050. And given that the livestock industry is already responsible for 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (from feeding, raising and transporting animals), that means it’s poised to generate a whole lot more.

‘Can that big increase be avoided? According to the researchers, many of whom hail from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and other agricultural and ecological research institutions around the world, it can. And the key, paradoxically, is to get animals to eat more grain. . . .

‘”If we’re able to develop policies to become more efficient producers of these products, we can continue to meet demand while reducing emissions,” Rich Conant, an ecosystem ecologist at the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University [and at the International Livestock Research Institute, ILRI] and a co-author of the study, tells The Salt.

We already know there are lots of things producers can do on the farm, and there’s a lot of research going on how they can more effectively manage the herd, to how they can get more meat from the animals, to how they manage the waste.” . . .

Mario Herrero, the chief research scientist at Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, and another of the study’s authors, says . . .

I think there should be tax breaks or incentives (payments for ecosystems services) for farmers to use their land in ways that produce food sustainably,” . . . .’

Read the whole article by Eliza Barclay on the ‘Salt’ program of National Public Radio (USA):
Why farmers can prevent global warming just as well as vegetarians, 25 Feb 2014.

Read the full science paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS):
Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, by Petr Havlík (ILRI and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis [IIASA], Hugo Valin (IIASA), Mario Herrero (ILRI, now at CSIRO), Michael Obersteiner (IIASA), Erwin Schmid(Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria), Mariana Rufino (ILRI), Aline Mosnier (IIASA), Philip Thornton (ILRI and CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security), Hannes Böttcher (IIASA), Richard Conant (ILRI and Colorado State University at Fort Collins), Stefan Frank (IIASA), Steffen Fritz (IIASA), Sabine Fuss (IIASA), Florian Kraxner (IIASA), and An Notenbaert (ILRI), Feb 2014.

Read other articles about this and related papers on the ILRI Clippings Blog:
Yet more evidence that agriculture–particularly livestock agriculture–needs to be part of climate discussions, 13 Apr 2014
Research shows vast differences in livestock systems, diets and emissions–FCRN on PNAS paper, 12 Apr 2014
What livestock eat (and don’t eat) determines how productive, and efficient, they are–PNAS study, 15 Mar 2014
Future of (sustainable) livestock production: Efficient, but measured–Time Magazine on major new ILRI study, 17 Dec 2013


Filed under: Animal Production, Article, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Geodata, ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, Intensification, Livestock Systems, LSE, PA, Policy Tagged: Greenhouse gas emissions, IIASA, Mario Herrero, NPR's The Salt, Petr Havlik, Philip Thornton, PNAS, Rich Conant

Yet more evidence that agriculture–particularly livestock agriculture–needs to be part of climate discussions

The farmyard, by Marc Chagall, 1954 (via Wikipaintings).

Without big interventions, the future of food security looks bleak.

So says an article in One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World Website.

The clear message from . . . the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report is the urgent need for farmers to adapt to a changing climate and for all countries to seriously engage in mitigating climate change.

‘Within agriculture, enteric fermentation (methane from livestock) accounts for the largest proportion of emissions (39%) and increased 11% between 2001 and 2010 . . . .

‘With crop yields expected to decline (and already declining in many countries) and agricultural emissions appearing to be on an upwards trajectory, the former perhaps incentivising the latter, we need smarter agriculture, that is resilient to future climate change while also reducing GHG emissions, the very goal of sustainable intensification.

‘A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, discusses how climate mitigation policies can reduce emissions from the livestock sector. Authors identify much potential to mitigate climate change in livestock production systems, namely the transition from extensive to more productive systems, reducing the livestock sector’s impact on land use change. The paper also recommends emissions reductions should be targeted to the supply (rather than demand) side. Aside from this rather controversial recommendation, this paper, as with many others, identifies significant opportunities to mitigate climate change and increase food supply within the agricultural sector. Serious action on implementing the variety of adaptation and mitigation strategies at the global and local level appears to be the limiting factor in progress.’

Read the whole article in One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World Website: Declining crop yields and increasing agricultural emissions, 11 Apr 2014.

Read the full paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS): Climate change mitigation through livestock system transitions, by Petr Havlík (ILRI and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis [IIASA], Hugo Valin (IIASA), Mario Herrero (ILRI, now at CSIRO), Michael Obersteiner (IIASA), Erwin Schmid (Institute for Sustainable Economic Development, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria), Mariana Rufino (ILRI), Aline Mosnier (IIASA), Philip Thornton (ILRI and CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security), Hannes Böttcher (IIASA), Richard Conant (ILRI and Colorado State University at Fort Collins), Stefan Frank (IIASA), Steffen Fritz (IIASA), Sabine Fuss (IIASA), Florian Kraxner (IIASA), and An Notenbaert (ILRI).

Read other articles about this paper in the ILRI Clippings Blog
Research shows vast differences in livestock systems, diets and emissions–FCRN on PNAS paper, 12 Apr 2014
What livestock eat (and don’t eat) determines how productive, and efficient, they are–PNAS study, 15 Mar 2014
Future of (sustainable) livestock production: Efficient, but measured–Time Magazine on major new ILRI study, 17 Dec 2013

Filed under: Animal Production, Article, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Geodata, ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, Intensification, Livestock Systems, LSE, PA, Policy Tagged: An Notenbaert, CSIRO, Greenhouse gas emissions, IIASA, Mariana Rufino, Mario Herrero, Petr Havlik, Philip Thornton, PNAS

Research shows vast differences in livestock systems, diets and emissions–FCRN on PNAS paper

A cow like that give 5,000 liters a day, by Maria Primachenko, 1978 (via Wikipaintings).

Tara Garnet, of the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), at Oxford University, recently highlighted a paper published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The paper, Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systems, is written by livestock scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Kenya) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO, Australia).

‘This paper provides a detailed analysis of ‘livestock ecosystems’ in different parts of the world and presents a high-resolution dataset of biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas emissions by global livestock. The research shows  vast differences in animal diets and emissions, one example being that animals in  low-income countries require far more food to produce a kilo of protein than animals in wealthy countries. The paper also shows that globally pork and poultry are being produced far more efficiently, defined in terms of feed conversion efficiency, than milk and beef, and greenhouse gas emissions vary widely depending on the animal involved and the quality of its diet.

‘The study breaks down livestock production into nine global regions , calculating their GHG  emissions by region, animal type and animal product. The researchers modelled only the emissions linked directly to animals—the gases released through their digestion and manure production (ie. not land use change or feed production). The study shows that ruminant animals (cows, sheep, and goats) require up to five times more feed to produce a kilo of protein in the form of meat than a kilo of protein in the form of milk.

‘However the authors point out that the lower emission intensities in the pig and poultry sectors are driven largely by industrial systems, systems which also pose significant public health risks (with the transmission of zoonotic diseases from these animals to people) and environmental risks, notably greenhouse gases produced by the energy and transport services needed for industrial livestock production and the felling of forests to grow crops for animal feed.  They also caution against using any single measurement as an absolute indicator of sustainability. For example, the low livestock feed efficiencies and high greenhouse gas emission intensities in sub-Saharan Africa are determined largely by the fact that most animals in this region continue to subsist largely on vegetation inedible by humans, especially by grazing on marginal lands unfit for crop production and the stovers and other residues of plants left on croplands after harvesting.

‘We present a unique, biologically consistent, spatially disaggregated global livestock dataset containing information on biomass use, production, feed efficiency, excretion, and greenhouse gas emissions for 28 regions, 8 livestock production systems, 4 animal species (cattle, small ruminants, pigs, and poultry), and 3 livestock products (milk, meat, and eggs). The dataset contains over 50 new global maps containing high-resolution information for understanding the multiple roles (biophysical, economic, social) that livestock can play in different parts of the world. The dataset highlights: (i) feed efficiency as a key driver of productivity, resource use, and greenhouse gas emission intensities, with vast differences between production systems and animal products; (ii) the importance of grasslands as a global resource, supplying almost 50% of biomass for animals while continuing to be at the epicentre of land conversion processes; and (iii) the importance of mixed crop–livestock systems, producing the greater part of animal production (over 60%) in both the developed and the developing world. These data provide critical information for developing targeted, sustainable solutions for the livestock sector and its widely ranging contribution to the global food system.’

Read the full paper by Mario Herrero (ILRI, now at CSIRO), Petr Havlík (ILRI and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis [IIASA], Hugo Valin (IIASA), An Notenbaert (ILRI), Mariana Rufino (ILRI), Philip Thornton (ILRI and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security [CCAFS]), Michael Blümmel (ILRI), Franz Weiss (IIASA), Delia Grace (ILRI) and Michael Obersteiner (IIASA): Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systemsProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, published online before print on 16 Dec 2013.

For supporting online information, including 50 maps, click here.

There is also an  introduction to this Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change: Livestock and global change: Emerging issues for sustainable food systems, by Mario Herrero and Philip Thornton, that can be read here.

Read the article on the website of the Food Climate Research Network about Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systems, 10 Jan 2014.

Filed under: Animal Production, Article, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Geodata, ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, Intensification, Livestock Systems, LSE, PA, Policy Tagged: An Notenbaert, CSIRO, Delia Grace, FCRN, Greenhouse gas emissions, IIASA, Mariana Rufino, Mario Herrero, Petr Havlik, Philip Thornton, PNAS, Tara Garnett

Shelter from the storm (literally): As remote herders get drought-related insurance payments, the heaven’s open

Livestock market in Wajir

Livestock market in Wajir, where Kenya’s remote, never-before-insured livestock herders are getting their first protection from drought (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

‘It was almost inevitable that the day chosen to make the first drought insurance payments in Wajir, in the arid north-east of Kenya, would be the same day the rains came.

‘Herders who lost sheep, cattle and camels in the scorching first quarter of the year sheltered from the storm in an airless hall waiting for the cheques from an innovative new scheme that seeks to break the drought-and-bust cycle blighting pastoralists across the Horn of Africa.

‘No one among the weathered ranks of Somali herders thought a day of rain was a sign of easier seasons to come. “Drought is always going to come,” said the county governor, Ahmed Abdullahi Mohamad. “If you have rains for two years you know that in the third year they will fail. The question is how we build the systems to deal with drought.”

This is a question that has hung over Andrew Mude, a Kenyan economist, for the past six years. Working with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in the capital, Nairobi, he has brought to bear satellite technology and 30 years of data on drought and herd losses in quest of a solution. . . .

‘This kind of ambition has attracted donors such as the UK and Australia, which have been willing to commit funds to educating herders about the benefits of insurance. Lisa Phillips, head of the UK Department for International Development in Kenya, who attended the payout ceremony, believes it is worth taking a punt on schemes that have the potential to break through ingrained poverty. “It’s cheaper than providing humanitarian assistance (after a drought),” she said. “We’re building resilience now to avoid spending loads of money later.”‘

Read the whole article by Daniel Howden in the Guardian‘s Global Development Blog: Kenya’s drought insurance scheme shelters herders from financial storm, 4 Apr 2014.

Read more about this insurance scheme and recent payout below.

ILRI Clippings Blog
Times Live (South Africa): Space tech provides Africa’s first Islamic insurance for herders, 1 Apr 2014

Business Daily (Kenya): Takaful, ILRI payout ‘sharia-compliant’ insurance to drought-suffering livestock herders in Wajir, 28 Mar 2014

Business Daily (Kenya): Pastoralists bank on index insurance to reduce losses, 26 Mar 2014

Watch a 2-minute video clip from Al Jazeera about the Wajir payout
New insurance scheme protects Kenyan farmers, 26 Mar 2014

Watch a 5-minute filmed interview by Roger Thurow on IBLI
Roger Thurow of the Chicago Council, interviews ILRI’s Andrew Mude, of IBLI, at the World Food Prize ceremonies in Iowa in Oct 2012, a Feed the Future Greenroom Interview, posted 28 Dec 2012.

Read ILRI’s press release about this on the ILRI News Blog
Africa’s first ‘Islamic-compliant’ livestock insurance pays 100 herders in Kenya’s remote drylands of Wajir for drought-related livestock losses, 25 Mar 2014

Visit related sites

ILRI website


BASIS: Assets and Market Assets

Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4)

Filed under: CRP11, CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Insurance, Kenya, Launch, LGI, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: Australia, DFID, Guardian's Global Development Blog, IBLT, Takaful, UK

Africa’s first Islamic insurance for herders

Takaful CEO Hassan Bashir in front of the new Takaful Insurance of Africa branch in Wajir

The son of a camel herder, Takaful CEO Hassan Bashir knows how tough traditional life in Kenya’s arid north is, where pastoralists rely on livestock herds surviving boom and bust cycles of drought (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

‘[Hassan] Bashir is also an astute entrepreneur, developing Africa’s first livestock insurance scheme to make payouts compliant with Islamic law, by bringing together Muslim scholars and number-crunching agricultural experts using NASA weather satellites.

‘”I’ve come from the community, and I understand its needs,” said Bashir, a sharp-suited businessman respectfully greeting elders dressed in traditional flowing robes in his hometown of Wajir, where goats and donkeys wander the dusty streets.

‘Bashir, 48, set up Takaful Insurance of Africa three years ago, which unlike ordinary insurance schemes prohibited by Islam, takes only a management fee from clients.

‘”It is a fair and ethical way to protect pastoralist’s livestock assets from natural hazards,” said Bashir, whose 80-year old father was one of the first to receive a payout this week for his herd of 50 cows.

‘Payments are assessed not according to deaths of individual animals as it would be impossible to provide proof, but according to an index drawn up by experts at the Nairobi-based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), using satellites to measure vegetation coverage and thus the severity of drought.

The company is named after the Islamic concept of takaful, in which risks are shared among the community, rather than insurance where policy holders effectively gamble risks against the company.

Any surplus money after payments are made is distributed equally to remaining policy holders.

‘”It is a cooperative welfare basket for the community,” Bashir added, who was inspired to switch from regular insurance broking to the Islamic system after “hot discussions” with his family who refused his “unethical” money.

‘”I wanted to do something to develop the people here,” he said.

‘In 2011, fierce drought here in northeastern Kenya decimated herds with a devastating impact, and spiralled into famine in nearby war-torn Somalia.

‘Like elsewhere in the Horn of Africa, vast numbers of livestock are kept as a form of savings account. But these living investments face natural hazards. . . .

Takaful made the first payouts this week in Wajir to 100 policyholders. . . .

‘But the economic potential is also huge: here in Wajir country, a scrubland region where most live in traditional huts, government estimates value livestock at some $550 million (400 million euros).

Across Kenya, the pastoral livestock sector is valued at around $5 billion (3.5 billion euros).

‘Organisers — backed by some $6 million (4.5 million euros) from Australia, Britain and the European Commission — hope it can strengthen the ability of fragile communities across the region to cope during droughts, and reduce reliance on food aid.

‘”It is an innovative product with the possibility to replicate it elsewhere in Kenya and other nations,” Dominique Davoux from the European Commission said.

‘With few of the semi-nomadic people holding bank accounts, insurance premiums are even payable via mobile telephone money transfers using text messages.

‘Across the Horn of Africa, over 70 million people live in pastoralist areas, regional governments estimate, supplying some 90 percent of all meat.

The ILRI-designed system is already being taken up by insurers in other northern Kenyan regions and southern Ethiopia, totalling some 4,000 policyholders, with numbers growing. . . .

Read the whole article in Times Live (SouthAfrica) by the South Africa Press Association (Sapa)/Agence France Presse (AFP): Space tech provides Africa’s first Islamic insurance for herders, 1 Apr 2014


Filed under: CRP11, CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Insurance, Kenya, Launch, LGI, LSE, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: AFP, Australia, European Commission, IBLT, SAPA, Takaful, Times Live (South Africa), UK

Supporting agropastoralists to adapt to climate change in West and Southern Africa

The world’s climate is changing rapidly and Africa will be severely affected by this, not only because of the effects on ecosystems but also because of the low adaptive capacity of communities due to poverty and lack of infrastructure, services, and appropriate policies to support adaptation strategies.

A large share of Africa’s poor are dependent on livestock for some part of their livelihoods, most of these living in smallholder, rainfed mixed systems and pastoral systems, where livestock play a key role as assets providing multiple economic, social, and risk management functions.

This project report by Jeannette van de Steeg, Mario Herrero and An Notenbaert was written as part of the project ‘Supporting the vulnerable: Increasing the adaptive capacity of agropastoralists to climatic change in West and Southern Africa using a transdisciplinary research approach’.

The goal of the project was to increase the adaptive capacity of agropastoralists, who are one of the most vulnerable groups in Africa, to climate change and variability. The purpose of this project is to co-generate methods, information and solutions between local communities, local and international scientists, policymakers and other actors involved in climate change and adaptation programs, for coping mechanisms and adapting strategies to climate change and variability in West and Southern Africa, and more particularly in Mali and Mozambique.

Together with key policymaking institutions and regional policymaking bodies we identified and promoted policy entry points to support the implementation of priority adaptation strategies, and we identified policy mechanisms that in themselves are an appropriate intervention to allow agropastoralists to buffer the effects of climate variability and change.

Download the full report

Filed under: Agriculture, Animal Feeding, Cattle, Climate Change, CRP7, ILRI, Livestock, LSE, Pastoralism Tagged: BMZ, GIZ

Takaful, ILRI payout ‘sharia-compliant’ insurance to drought-suffering livestock herders in Wajir

A beneficiary of Takaful insurance in Wajir

Shamsa Kosar, a beneficiary of Takaful livestock insurance payouts made in Wajir, northern Kenya, in March 2014. This novel insurance was made possible by an ILRI index-based livestock insurance research project in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Riccardo Gangale).

‘Takaful Insurance will pay livestock farmers about Sh500,000 for losses incurred during the December to March dry season.

‘The farmers, 30 women and 71 men from Wajir County, are the first to be compensated after they took up the Shariah-compliant Index-Based Livestock Takaful (IBLT) cover in August 2013. . . .

‘The insurer said its focus is to make the Shariah-based policy more popular.

Our goal is to show pastoralists that they can use a fair and ethical business model to protect their assets from a natural hazard of keeping livestock in East Africa,” said Takaful Insurance chief executive Hassan Bashir.

‘Takaful makes revenues through management fees and pays out any surpluses made.

‘The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), which was part of the team that designed the policy, also said that the popularity of the package is the priority at the moment.

This payout is critical for building confidence in the concept of insurance for drought-prone regions of East Africa where life revolves around livestock and droughts can bring disaster,” said Andrew Mude who leads the IBLI programme at ILRI.

‘ILRI estimates that livestock farmers in northern Kenya have cows, goats and sheep worth Sh46 billion. Cornell University and the Index Insurance Innovation Initiative (I4) at the University of California at Davis are the other partners in the project.

‘The World Bank has also shown interest in the livestock industry. The lender has set aside a Sh6.7 billion grant for building infrastructure meant to reduce risks for Kenyan livestock farmers. The bank estimates that the Eastern Africa region has a livestock population of between 12 to 22 million.’

Read the whole article at Business Daily (Kenya): Insurer to compensate livestock farmers​, 24 Mar 2014

Read other news clippings:
Business Daily (Kenya): Pastoralists bank on index insurance to reduce losses, 26 Mar 2014

Watch a 2-minute video clip from Al Jazeera about the payout, New insurance scheme protects Kenyan farmers, 26 Mar 2014

Read ILRI’s press release about this on the ILRI News Blog:
Africa’s first ‘Islamic-compliant’ livestock insurance pays 100 herders in Kenya’s remote drylands of Wajir for drought-related livestock losses, 25 Mar 2014

Filed under: CRP7, Drought, Drylands, East Africa, Event, ILRI, ILRIComms, Insurance, Kenya, Launch, LGI, PA, Pastoralism Tagged: Andrew Mude, Business Daily, Cornell University, IBLI, IBLT, Index Insurance Innovation Initiative, Takaful Insurance, World Bank

What livestock eat (and don’t eat) determines how productive, and efficient, they are–PNAS study

Napier Grass

Napier grass (aka ‘elephant grass’), a major feed supplement for dairy cows and other ruminant animals in Kenya (photo credit: Jeff Haskins).

Even though research has shown that [greenhouse gas] GHG emissions from the Western world far outweigh those from the developing world, livestock keeping methods in Africa are increasingly becoming a key subject.

Europe, North America and Latin America are at the epicentre of beef production, with each region producing about 12 to 14 million tonnes per year. By comparison, all of sub-Saharan Africa produces less than five million tonnes of beef annually.

A new study shows ‘that most livestock in the developed world consume feeds of higher quality in form of concentrates and grains, compared to developing nations where livestock rely mainly on low quality natural pastures and crop residues. . . .

A recent International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) study titled Biomass Use, Production, Feed efficiencies and Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Global Livestock Systems established that the high emissions from livestock were linked to poor livestock management on the continent.

‘An Notenbaert, one of the study’s authors, notes that the factors contributing to this level of emissions are the same ones impeding livestock production and slowing down development in Africa. . . .

“Such studies provide opportunities for countries to identify gaps in their livestock production systems and address those challenges to foster economic growth,” states Dr Notenbaert [a livestock expert who did this work at ILRI and has since moved to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture] . . . .

‘The study shows that most livestock in the developed world consume feeds of higher quality in form of concentrates and grains, compared to developing nations where livestock rely mainly on low quality natural pastures and crop residues.

As such, a cow in North America or Europe likely consumes about 75 to 300 kilogrammes of dry feed to produce a kilogramme of meat protein. But in sub-Saharan Africa, a cow might require between 500 and 2,000 kilogrammes of feed to produce the same amount of meat protein.

‘Dr Notenbaert notes that the quality of feeds consumed by animals determine to a large extent their productivity and amount of GHG emissions they will release into the atmosphere.

‘Thus cattle grazing on low quality pastures in arid lands of sub-Saharan Africa can release the equivalent of 1,000 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide for every kilogramme of protein that they produce whereas the emission intensity in Europe and the US is around 10 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide for very kilogramme of protein produced. . . .

‘Animals take much longer to digest low quality feeds and as a result release more methane and carbon dioxide gas that cause global warming.

‘In Kenya, livestock contributes 10 per cent of the total gross domestic product.

‘Moreover, in the arid and semi arid lands occupying more than 70 per cent of the country, the livestock sector accounts for about 90 per cent of family incomes, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

But Kenya’s population is still growing and if livestock yields remain low, it will compromise government’s ability to adequately feed citizens and guarantee food security in the country, says Dr Notenbaert. . . .

Read the whole article by Sarah Ooko in Business Daily (Kenya): Poor livestock management blamed for increased greenhouse gas emissions in Africa, 21 Feb 2014.

Read the ILRI News Blog story on this study, which was published as part of a series of article on ‘livestock and global change’ in a special feature of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (this issue was edited by Mario Herrero, who did this work at ILRI and is now at the Commonwealth, Scientific, Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO], in Australia):
As livestock eat, so they emit: Highly variable diets drive highly variable climate change ‘hoofprints’–BIG new study, 17 Dec 2013

Filed under: Animal Production, Article, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Food security, ILRI, ILRIComms, Integrated Sciences, Kenya, Livestock Systems, LivestockFutures, LSE, PA, Policy Tagged: An Notenbaert, Business Daily, CSIRO, Greenhouse gas emissions, Mario Herrero, PNAS

Future of (sustainable) livestock production: Efficient, but measured–Time Magazine on major new ILRI study

Ethiopian livestock-keeping family

Ethiopian livestock-keeper and her children (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

Livestock production may have a bigger impact on the planet than anything else. A new study from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) shows how the effects vary from country to country — and points the way toward a more sustainable future.

Below, Time Magazine‘s senior environmental journalist Bryan Walsh reports (well) on a big new livestock study from ILRI.

‘You may think you live on a planet, but really you live on a gigantic farm, one occasionally broken up by cities, forests and the oceans. Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed — albeit some of us, of course, more than others. And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.

Livestock production — which includes meat, milk and eggs — contributes 40% of global agricultural gross domestic product, provides income for more than 1.3 billion people and uses one-third of the world’s fresh water. There may be no other single human activity that has a bigger impact on the planet than the raising of livestock. But as a new study out today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) shows, there is tremendous variation in how we raise livestock around the world — and major differences in what that means for the earth and for us.

‘Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria produced a comprehensive assessment of the livestock industry around the world, in developed nations where factory farming is common and in developing nations where livestock are more likely to graze on grasslands.

‘They dug up some striking statistics that underscore just how much meat production varies from region to region.

‘Each year the livestock sector globally produces 586 million tons of milk, 124 million tons of poultry, 91 million tons of pork, 59 million tons of cattle and buffalo meat, and 11 million tons of meat from sheep and goats. That 285 million tons of meat altogether — or about 36 kg (80 lb.) per person, if it were all divided evenly. It’s not — Americans eat 122 kg (270 lb.) of meat a year on average, while Bangladeshis eat 1.8 kg (4 lb). . . .

’1.3 billion tons of grain are consumed by farm animals each year — and nearly all of it is fed to livestock, mostly pork and poultry, in the developed world and in China and Latin America. All of the livestock in sub-Saharan Africa eat just 50 million tons of grain a year, otherwise subsisting on grasses and on crop residue.

‘The poor feed quality in impoverished regions like sub-Saharan Africa means that a cow there may consume as much as 10 times more feed — mostly grasses — to produce a kilogram of protein than a cow raised in richer regions. That lack of efficiency also means that cattle in countries like Ethiopia and Somalia account for as much as 1,000 kg of carbon for every kg of protein they produce — in the form of methane from manure as well as from the reduced carbon absorption that results when forests are converted to pastureland. That’s 10 times higher than the amount of carbon released per kg of protein in many parts of the U.S. and Europe, where livestock production is much more intensive. . . .

The upside of inefficient livestock production in the developing world is that there is a lot of room to improve, given the right kind of help — which is exactly what the authors of the PNAS paper are hoping for.

‘“Our data can allow us to see more clearly where we can work with livestock keepers to improve animal diets so they can produce more protein with better feed while simultaneously reducing emissions”, said Petr Havlik, a research scholar at IIASA and a co-author of the study. What we need is “sustainable intensification” — efficiency but pursued in a measured way. . . .

Above all else, the study underscores that while meat production will need to change in the future, so will meat consumption. . . .

What’s clear is that American levels of meat consumption can’t be sustainably adopted by the rest of the world, even if livestock management becomes more efficient globally.

“Demand management has to be part of the solution as well,” says Herrero. For the environment — and for our hearts and waistlines too.’

Read the whole Bryan Walsh article in Time MagazineNew study shows the major environmental impact of meat production, 16 Dec 2013.

Read an article in ILRI’s News Blog about this publication: As livestock eat, so they emit: Highly variable diets drive highly variable climate change ‘hoofprints’–BIG new study, 16 Dec 2013.

Read the full paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of SciencesBiomass use, production, feed efficiencies and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systems, by Mario Herrero (ILRI), Petr Havlík (ILRI and IIASA), Hugo Valin (IIASA), An Notenbaert (ILRI), Mariana Rufino (ILRI), Philip Thornton (ILRI), Michael Blümmel (ILRI), Franz Weiss (IIASA), Delia Grace (ILRI) and Michael Obersteiner (IIASA), in a Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change, early online edition of 16 Dec 2013.

119 pages of supporting online information, including 50 maps, is available at PNAS here.

Read the introduction to this Special Feature on Livestock and Global Change: Livestock and global change: Emerging issues for sustainable food systems, by Mario Herrero and Philip Thornton, in the early online edition of 16 Dec 2013.

Filed under: Article, CRP7, Environment, Food security, ILRI, Integrated Sciences, LivestockFutures, PA Tagged: CCAFS, CSIRO, Harvard University, IIASA, Mario Herrero, Petr Havlik, Philip Thornton, William Clarke

Reducing climate change through livestock: FAO report

Livestock and aquaculture at work, Bangladesh. Photo by Ebbe Schioler, 2002

A farm in Bangladesh with just enough room for one cow, which, adequately fed and cared for, efficiently produces enough milk for household consumption and manure for maintaining a small garden plot and fish pond (photo on Flickr by WorldFish).

‘Farmers could earn more and protect the environment by using technologies and practices that reduce the global warming gases that livestock emit, according to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

‘The report’s five case studies suggest that the potential for mitigation is greatest among low-productivity ruminant producers in South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

‘It found that raising livestock such as pigs, cattle and poultry generates climate-altering gases with an impact equivalent to 7.1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, representing 14.5 per cent of all human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

‘The challenge, says the report (published 26 September), is reducing emissions while meeting the soaring demand for livestock products — a demand that is projected to rise by more than 70 per cent between 2005 and 2050.

‘Only 10 per cent of producers currently use technologies which could, if taken up more widely, cut the emissions from all livestock species by up to 30 per cent while boosting production, too. . . .

‘Currently, the majority of the livestock sector’s emissions originate from cattle, with beef production contributing 41 per cent and cattle milk production contributing 20 per cent.

‘In terms of activities, the worst culprit is feed production and processing, which accounts for 45 per cent of emissions from livestock-related practices. This is followed by manure storage and processing, which is responsible for ten per cent of these emissions.

‘In the case of ruminants, such as cattle, buffalo, sheep and goats, the report finds that using better quality feeds would lower the amount of methane they emit during digestion as well as the quantity of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide released by their decomposing manure.

‘Also, by improving the breeding and health of their animals, producers could get the same returns from fewer but more productive animals, it says.

‘Other emission-mitigating practices mentioned by the report include: better management of grazing land; recovering and recycling nutrients and energy contained in manure; and using less energy along the livestock production chain, for example in transport, feed production and to process animal products. . . .

Michael Blummel, a researcher at the International Livestock Research Institute at Hyderabad, India, says that Indian dairy farmers could reduce methane emissions by about a million tonnes a year if they could boost the amount of milk that each cow produced from an average of four kilograms to six kilograms a day.

This would enable the farmers to obtain the same amount of milk from fewer animals, he tells SciDev.Net, adding that institutional support, for example, access to affordable improved animals, would be needed.

‘James Kinyangi, who leads CGIAR’s climate change, agriculture and food security research programme in east Africa, tells SciDev.Net that methods of intensifying sustainable livestock production on the continent vary by region.

For example, in West Africa [lower] emissions could come from better grazing management and better utilisation of feed and fodder from crop residues. But in East Africa, the use of feed and fodder could be improved by using farm wastes and grain milling products.’. . .

Read the full report: Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities, by PJ Gerber, H Steinfeld, B Henderson, A Mottet, C Opio, J Dijkman, A Falcucci and G Tempio, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 2013.

Read the whole news article: SciDevNet: Farmers could cut emissions while boosting production, 1 Nov 2013.

Filed under: ASSP, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, Feed Bioscience, ILRI, Integrated Sciences, Intensification, PA, Report Tagged: Greenhouse gas emissions, James Kinyangi, Michael Blummel, SciDevNet

Klaus Butterbach-Bahl and ecosystems-climate research team win Stifterverband Science Award–Schrödinger Prize

Sheep grazing in Inner Mongolia

Sheep graze pasture in Inner Mongolia; a long-term research study shows that large-area grazing on steppes actually reduces, rather than increases, nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Five ecosystems-climate researchers, including Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), have been honoured for outstanding interdisciplinary research on nitrous oxide emissions.

Butterbach-Bahl is a bio-geo-chemist now working on joint appointment at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Nairobi, Kenya, and the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, in Garmisch, Germany. Butterbach-Bahl is expert in measuring trace gas emissions from different land uses, particularly in determining greenhouse gas emissions from different manure and land-use management strategies and developing site-specific options for poor agricultural communities to use to mitigate climate change.

The team was granted the 2013 Stifterverband Science Award—Erwin Schrödinger Prize in the amount of EUR50,000. With this award, the Stifterverband and Helmholtz Association recognize outstanding scientific achievements of researchers of various disciplines. A widely noted study by Butterbach-Bahl’s research team refuted the prevalent opinion that large-area grazing contributes to the constantly increasing nitrous oxide concentration in the atmosphere and, hence, to global warming.

The new president of Stifterverband, Andreas Barner, bestowed the award at the Helmholtz Annual Meeting on 19 Sep 2013 in Berlin. The team’s study, ‘Grazing-induced reduction of natural nitrous oxide release from continental steppe’, was executed mainly by Butterbach-Bahl and geographer Michael Dannenmann, from the Atmospheric Environmental Research Division of KIT’s Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), as well as by atmospheric physicist Xunhua Zheng, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; chemist Nicolas Brüggemann, of the Forschungszentrum Jülich; and geo-ecologist Benjamin Wolf, of Empa/Zurich. While the project was carried out, Nicolas Brüggemann and Benjamin Wolf still worked at KIT. The findings obtained by combining ecosystems research with climate research were published in the journal Nature in 2010.

The scientists proved that, contrary to previous assumptions, livestock production on steppes does not increase the release of the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, but, on the contrary, reduces it. Nitrous oxide (N2O), along with carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane, is among the gases contributing most to climate change and global warming. The greenhouse effect of a certain amount of N2O in the atmosphere exceeds that of the same amount of CO2 by a factor of about 300. About 60% of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions are produced by agriculture, e.g. when microbes in the soil decompose nitrogen-containing faeces of grazing sheep or cattle. Scientists consequently assumed that livestock breeding on steppes and prairies contributes to the constant increase of nitrous oxide concentration in the atmosphere.

In their research project, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), the researchers proved that the situation is far more complex: Areas that are not used for livestock breeding actually release higher amounts of nitrous oxide over the year than areas on which animals are grazing. For their study, the scientists made measurements at several stations on the steppe of Inner Mongolia / China over one year. They found that previous short-term studies had simply ignored the fact that the release of considerable amounts of nitrous oxide from steppe soil into the atmosphere is a natural process and that most of this natural emission is caused by spring thawing.

It is exactly this emission that is reduced considerably by grazing, as was shown by the five researchers in their study. Grazing animals reduce the height of the grass. As a result, the snow is carried away by the wind more easily. The thinner snow cover reduces insulation of the grazing areas in the long and cold winter. Hence, soils are colder by up to 10°C, Butterbach-Bahl explains.

During the thawing period in March, less melting water is produced. This makes the soils drier. The cold and the aridity inhibit microbial activities: Less nitrous oxide is produced. — Klaus Butterbach-Bahl

The scientific team assumes that previous calculations overestimated nitrous oxide emission from grazing areas by about 72%. Still, it is a fact that nitrous oxide concentration in the atmosphere is increasing constantly. To understand this, much more research work remains to be done, Butterbach-Bahl emphasizes. Intensified animal husbandry will not solve the problem, as large amounts of methane will be released. Moreover, overgrazing of steppes causes soil degradation and high losses of the soil’s carbon reserves.

About the Stifterverband Science Award – Erwin Schrödinger Prize
Since 1999, the Helmholtz Association and Stifterverband have been granting the Erwin Schrödinger Prize to recognize outstanding scientific achievements and technological innovations at the interface of various disciplines in medicine, natural sciences and engineering. Work must have been accomplished by representatives of at least two disciplines. The prize money is donated alternately by Stifterverband and the Helmholtz Association, and the prize is awarded annually. The prize winners can freely dispose of the money in the amount of EUR50,000. Every year, the prize is presented officially at the Helmholtz Annual Meeting.

About Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is a public corporation according to the legislation of the state of Baden-Württemberg. It fulfills the mission of a university and the mission of a national research center of the Helmholtz Association. Research activities focus on energy, the natural and built environment as well as on society and technology and cover the whole range extending from fundamental aspects to application. With about 9000 employees, including nearly 6000 staff members in the science and education sector, and 24000 students, KIT is one of the biggest research and education institutions in Europe. Work of KIT is based on the knowledge triangle of research, teaching, and innovation.

Read the news release, Schrödinger Prize for work on nitrous oxide emissions, on the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) website, 2 Jul 2013.

Read about and view a recent slide presentation made by Klaus Butterbach-Bahl: Want ‘climate-smart’ farming adopted in Africa? Then better start collecting data on how much greenhouse gases African countries are emitting, at an ILRI ‘livestock live talk’ seminar, ILRI News Blog, 29 Aug 2013.

Filed under: Award, Central Asia, China, Climate Change, CRP7, Environment, ILRI, LivestockFutures, LSE, PA, Sheep, Staff Tagged: German Research Foundation, Germany, GHG, Inner Mongolia, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Klaus Butterbach-Bahl, Nitrous oxide, Stifterverband Science Award–Erwin Schrödinger Prize