The focus on the negative impacts of livestock overshadows its multiple positive contributions to livelihoods of smallholders in Africa in terms of nutrition, draft power, manure for soil fertilization, asset and risk management. For example in Ethiopia, people consume only about a tenth as much meat as people in developed countries, and moderate increases in milk, meat and egg consumption could make huge strides towards tackling malnutrition and stunting.

Instead of reducing the consumption of animal source protein, rural people in the developing world would benefit from it in terms of health! Gebregziabher Gebreyohannes, State Minister of Livestock and Fishery Resources in Ethiopia, invites to see a world where livestock are not part of the problem but part of the solution. “It’s a much larger, more complex and promising world than the one depicted in the report”. However, all still agree that environmental impacts of livestock are critical, and need to be reduced – e.g. reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission intensity of animal source product. In the developing world, such a pathway has been coined ‘low emission livestock’.

In that order, a recent workshop entitled “Low emissions livestock: supporting policy through science in West/Central Africa” brought together nearly 60 senior government officials, policy and science representatives. All of them work in the livestock and related sectors in 22 countries in West and Central Africa, and attended to discuss and raise awareness on low emission livestock development as a driver of economic gains while at the same time tackling climate change. The workshop aimed at providing practical and science-based support to these countries in order to achieve a sustainable development through livestock.

Birthe Paul from CIAT Africa presents on activities related to improved forages, forage management and feed availability for low emissions livestock systems.

Birthe Paul from CIAT Africa presents on activities related to improved forages, forage management and feed availability for low emissions livestock systems.

Birthe Paul, Farming Systems Scientist in CIAT’s Tropical Forages Program, made a presentation to the plenary, where she highlighted the key role of improved livestock feeding and tropical forages in reducing livestock emission intensities, showcasing on-the-ground work in Benin and DR Congo, as well as greenhouse gas (GHG) emission modeling capacities at CIAT, through a case study in Lushoto, Tanzania, where the CLEANED model was implemented.

In addition to calculating GHG emissions, the CLEANED model (that stands for Comprehensive Livestock Environmental Assessment for Improved Nutrition, a Secured Environment and Sustainable Development) can also quantify water impacts, productivity, soil nutrient balances, and land requirements. To ensure the systems are economically viable, it can also produce gross margins and value of production. Recently, two training workshops were conducted in Rwanda and Kenya, strengthening the capacities of a wide range of researchers and other stakeholders on this tool. The Version 2 that was just published will help to increase reach and use across East Africa and beyond.

Tools and approaches like CLEANED and others showcased during the workshop will contribute to increasing understanding and awareness of low emission livestock, while establishing new science and policy partnerships. Main opportunities for an Africa-wide low emission livestock research and policy program included national capacity building on GHG emission reporting (moving to IPCC Tier 2), as well as quantifying the impact of improved livestock technologies such as improved forages towards meeting countries’ pledges under the NDCs.

The workshop was organized by the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA), together with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), The World Bank, and was hosted from 26-28 March in Dakar, Senegal, by the Senegalese Institute for Agriculture Research (ISRA).

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