Climate Change / Drought / Drylands / Environment / ILRI / Intensification / NRM / Participation / Pastoralism / Rangelands / Resilience / SLS / Vulnerability

A first look at ILRI’s new research programs: Sustainable Livestock Systems

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI),
headquartered in Africa and working in poor countries
worldwide to provide better lives through livestock,
held its Institute Planning Meeting from 4 to 7 Oct 2016.
This is the sixth of a series of blog articles reporting on
plans for ILRI research programs, including ILRI’s
work in west and southern Africa and south, east and southeast Asia.

IPM 2016 agenda

A central question for ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Systems program is:
‘What does “sustainable intensification” mean in different contexts?’
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

ILRI Sustainable
Livestock Systems Program

Polly Ericksen introduced the Sustainable Livestock Systems program by saying that the group of 28 ILRI scientists and some 40 research and other support staff provide data on the environmental footprint of livestock production (e.g. African greenhouse gas emissions data), help partners to design incentives to take up strategies for better environmental management of livestock production, inform international climate finance initiatives and build capacity.


ILRI’s new Sustainable Livestock Systems program works for a future in which livestock are productive in the face of uncertain trajectories, help poor people to manage risks and shocks and provide environmental benefits.


This program works to characterize and understand the environmental risks and benefits, as well as the broader constraints to increasing livestock productivity, that livestock keepers need to address. The program uses this knowledge to develop strategies to overcome these constraints and to catalyze an enabling environment that ensures the dissemination of these strategies through partners, leading to their uptake by ILRI’s target beneficiaries.



Under the first theme above, the program will conduct research both to mitigate livestock greenhouse gas emissions and other negative environmental impacts and to help livestock keepers adapt to climate change.

Under the second theme listed above, the program will work with partners to get a clearer understanding of what sustainable intensification means in different contexts and to determine what conducive market, policy and other environments are needed to support sustainable livestock intensification. Program staff will also actively help develop capacity within institutions to do and promote sustainable development and support uptake of interventions by stakeholder groups.

Under the third them listed above, promoting resilient livestock systems, the program will support groups on many levels, including: (1) national and local governments to adopt and conduct evidenced-based policies and programs, (2) private-sector actors to invest in options that help build resilient livestock systems, (3) donor and development agencies to pursue investments and programs that help build resilient livestock systems, and (4) households to adopt livestock-based practices and technologies that work to build resilience.

The program staff have taken a first crack at mapping an impact pathway, which looks like the figure below. What’s most clear to the staff at the moment are the three high-level impacts they’re aiming for: (1) productive livestock in the face of future change, (2) poor people profiting in the face of risks and shocks and (3) enhanced environmental benefits from livestock.


We want to turn the messaging around:
Livestock as a generator of environmental goods.
To conduct this kind of advocacy work,
we have a bit of seed money from the Gates Foundation.
—ILRI’s Ben Hack reporting on #ipm2016

Exciting science!


ILRI’s Lance Robinson, a specialist in community-based
environmental governance, said that the kinds of interventions
appropriate for drylands are largely social and institutional
rather than plot-level, technological or physical.

Those in my field are ready now to ask,
‘What works best in which contexts?’

With our growing body of case studies,
we can now start testing hypotheses.

Taken downstream, our research can provide
specific guidance to governments, NGOs and donor agencies,
about how they can best support community approaches
to rangeland management, which we think suit
intensification in rangeland settings.


For more information, contact ILRI’s Sustainable Livestock Systems program leader Polly Ericksen, p.ericksen [at]

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