In 2015–2016, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and partners revealed extraordinary findings that the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cattle in Kenya maybe up to 10 times lower than previous estimates, clearly making the case for improving Africa-specific understanding of GHG emissions to develop better-targeted climate change mitigation and adaption strategies. Taking this research one step further, working with governments and other civil society partners, offers opportunities to bring about change in international policies benefitting smallholder farmers, as was shown with the passing of the United Nations Environment Assembly resolution on combatting climate change. Moreover, translating research in a favourable policy environment paves the way for capacity building that can translate into the mass scaling of the sustainable intensification of farming.
These are some of the findings from the livestock systems research and interventions, presented in the ILRI Corporate report 2015–2016: highlights on sustainable livestock systems. The findings of the report are presented in line with the three objectives set out in the ILRI strategy 2013-2022:
- Develop, test, adapt and promote science-based practices that—being sustainable and scalable—achieve better lives through livestock.
- Provide compelling scientific evidence in ways that persuade decision-makers—from farms to boardrooms and parliaments—that smarter policies and bigger livestock investments can deliver significant socio-economic, health and environmental dividends to both poor nations and households.
- Increase capacity among ILRI’s key stakeholders and the institute itself so that they can make better use of livestock science and investments for better lives through livestock.
Science into practice
The importance of livestock to livelihoods and environmental sustainability highlights the need to develop an Africa-specific body of evidence on GHG emissions, according to a preliminary study led by scientists at the ILRI Mazingira Centre—the first research institution of its kind in Africa. It found GHG emissions from livestock manure in Kenya were up to 10 times lower than global estimates based on available data from industrialized nations as currently used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The study suggests that improving understanding of GHG emissions in Africa will help to develop much better-targeted mitigation and adaption strategies.
Supported by a group of organizations working on livestock- and environment-related issues, including ILRI and International Land Coalition, the governments of Ethiopia, Namibia and Sudan led the adoption of a resolution, ‘Combating desertification, land degradation and drought and promoting sustainable pastoralism and rangelands’, at the United Nations Environment Assembly in May 2016. The issues addressed include: investment in drylands, access to markets, and incentives for environmental stewardship.
The Africa RISING Ethiopia project incorporates a whole systems approach, taking factors such as profitability, production and the environment into its capacity development initiatives. Since 2012, the project has supported 30 research fellows and involved more than 11,000 participants in workshops, farmer field days and exchange visits. Interim evaluations found that farmers who participated in training on landscape management, resource conservation and crop–livestock intensification activities incorporated this knowledge into their own practices and increased collective action, with positive consequences for partnerships and scaling approaches. Africa RISING Ethiopia expects beneficiary numbers to rise from less than 21,000 in 2016 to more than 700,000 by 2021.