For the November 2011 ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ event at ILRI, Philip Thornton, Mario Herrero and Polly Ericksen prepared an issue brief on the relations between climate change and livestock systems in developing countries …
Livestock systems occupy 45% of the global surface area with a value of at least $1.4 trillion. Livestock industries and value chains are a significant source of livelihoods – they employ at least 1.3 billion people globally and directly support the livelihoods of 800 million poor smallholders in the developing world. Livestock products also contribute 17% of calories and 33% of protein consumed globally. For the poor, increased consumption of livestock products reduces mortality and improves cognitive development of children and there is considerable potential to increase incomes of smallholders from the sale of livestock products.
However, livestock and livestock systems are a major cause of global warming; and climate change will have major impacts on poor livestock keepers and on the ecosystem goods and services on which they depend.
The future trajectory of global green-house gas (GHG) emissions is uncertain, but even if these are reduced substantially and quickly, the globe will continue to warm for several decades.
The authors outline ways to reduce GHG emissions from livestock systems through technologies, policies and incentives. They also discuss options that livestock keepers can adopt to adapt to climate change and cope with increasing climate variability. These include technological (drought-tolerant fodder crops), behavioural (changes in dietary choice), managerial (different livestock management practices), and policy (market and infrastructural development). They conclude by identifying some future challenges.
On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.