Launched in Ethiopia early in 2019, the Program for Climate-Smart Livestock Systems (PCSL) aims to increase livestock’s contribution to the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture (CSA)—increased productivity, mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adaptation to climate change—across diverse systems and species in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda in the next three years. The main beneficiaries of the project are governments, the private sector and local livestock keepers.
After the launch of the program at the national level, efforts are now going on to roll it out in selected regions of Ethiopia. The first local launch in the country took place on 20 August 2019 in Debre Birhan. The PCSL team invited representatives from the zonal government, the district governments of Basona Baso Woreda and Angolela Tera Woreda, as well as the local administration of Gudo Beret Kebelle and Seriti Kebelle to the launch workshop.
In addition to the government representatives, the two Kebelles were also represented by two groups of model farmers, private businesses and farmer cooperatives at the event. Additional participants came from Debre Birhan University and the Debre Birhan Agricultural Research Centre. At the workshop the participants shared their perspectives of climate-change related challenges for livestock keeping in the region. But differentiating between environmental, economic and climate-change related challenges in livestock farming was difficult for some of the actors because these challenges are interwoven and needed to be addressed in an interdisciplinary way.
Introducing the PCSL program to residents of Debre Birhan in Ethiopia
The PCSL team was represented by Birgit Habermann, Daniel Getahun, Edwige Marty, Lucy Njuguna, Sonja Leitner and Tigist Worku. They introduced the project and its activities in a series of brief presentations. The main part of the subsequent discussion focused on the program’s definition of ‘climate-smart agriculture’, and what its contribution to emission research would be.
Participants’ concerns included how the project intended to mitigate emissions in its relatively short period of implementation without involving the ministries of water, energy, trade, transportation and industry, among other questions. Leitner, who works with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Mazingira Centre clarified that developing reliable livestock GHG emission baselines was a key first step towards achieving climate-smart agriculture.
The current livestock GHG emission estimates from east African agriculture are based on modelling approaches originally developed and parameterized for developed countries. These countries have different and often highly industrialized livestock farming systems, which make the uncertainty in these estimates high and unrepresentative for east African smallholder farms.
In this project, the Mazingira Centre team will first assess the locally representative GHG emissions factors for Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda for local ruminant species (e.g. Borana, and Ankole cattle) fed with local diets with little protein supplementation. In the second step, these GHG emission factors will be combined with household characteristics such as livestock numbers, feeding strategies, income and labour distribution as well as manure management. This will help to identify the most productive management strategies for east African livestock farming systems that are also most efficient in mitigating GHG emissions.
Another aspect of the PCSL focuses on climate-change adaptation. For this purpose, scoping studies are now starting in Ethiopia. Researchers will visit the kebelles where local government workers and local livestock keepers will be interviewed to establish why some livestock keepers are more successful in adapting to climate change than others. This will aid in identifying the adaptation practices as well as local innovators who can play a prominent role in the participatory field trials during ongoing innovations in the adaptation practices.
These field trials will involve several stakeholders within the study area and will vary depending on the nature of the adaptation practices found. Cooperation will be sought during ongoing interventions with the local universities, research organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The ILRI-linked Africa RISING project in Gudo Beret Kebelle in Basona Woreda will provide useful linkages.
Participants also wanted to know how the program will bring significant change in the sector by focusing ‘only’ on the livestock component and not including natural resource management and crop production. They queried the program’s activities and plans after the research phase. The PCSL team leaders said the program will support policymaking through the national learning platforms and develop the capacity of governments to track adaptation. It will also support capacity development through training and production of manuals and toolkits for local livestock keepers and extension workers.
During the workshop participants took part in a net mapping exercise where they discussed and documented the most relevant and active actors in relation to development and implementation of climate change adaptation strategies for the livestock sector.
The netmaps showed very distinctive differences depending on the actors in the groups: farmers focused mostly on the relation between them and the government as well as the private sector. Currently, farmers perceive little benefit from their interaction with the private sector and they focused more intently on the role of the government. Private sector representatives on the other hand listed the government and NGOs as the most important actors in the development of livestock interventions; farmers and the private sector were listed as the most relevant actors in the implementation.
Thereafter, the participants identified challenges related to climate and environmental changes and the livestock sector. This exercise helped the PCSL team to better understand the diverse perspectives of local stakeholders on existing and possible future challenges. A group of researchers produced a comprehensive diagram of livestock related challenges that showed animal health problems, livestock breeding and deforestation as the most prevalent issues for most actors. Many of the participants also said changes in land use for urbanization, cropland and land shortage were pressing concerns in the livestock sector.
Later, participants worked in groups to better understand community variability and how local livestock keepers can develop innovations and adapt to perceived challenges. Participants came up with their definitions of success and described what makes a successful livestock farmer and why. While farmers ranked high-performing crossbred cattle and the availability of a barn highest, government representatives ranked high productivity of livestock first. Power sources available for farmers such as fuel and oxen for ploughing as well income-generating activities were ranked next.
After the the program’s launch in Debre Birhan the researchers will collect data from the field and facilitate stakeholders’ engagement on the issues raised during the launch workshop to spur positive change in the community.
The PCSL is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the German Corporation for International Cooperation GmbH (GIZ).
This blog was co-authored by Birgit Habermann, a postdoctoral scientist working on innovation and social issues of climate change adaptation, Edwige Marty, a PhD student working on the political economy of climate change adaptation in the East African livestock systems, Tigist Worku, a research associate for the PCSL and Lucy Njuguna a graduate fellow in the PCSL working on developing tools for tracking climate change adaptation for the eastern Africa livestock sector. It was edited by Judy Kimani and Paul Karaimu.
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