Since the publication in 2006 of Livestock’s Long Shadow by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has been acutely aware of the global concern around the environmental footprint of livestock production systems, especially in the context of the rapidly growing demand for meat and milk. These environmental “bads” include greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ruminant digestion, nutrient leaching and emissions from manure, and land use change and degradation. However livestock also provide some important environmental “goods”, such as biodiversity, and are a critical livelihood asset to help buffer against climatic and economic shocks.
We live in an era of rapid environmental change, much of it anthropogenic in nature, which will have profound impacts on livestock production. Key among these is climate change, which will bring increased temperatures and more variable precipitation, leading to changes in vegetation, pests and diseases among others. Coupled with this are social and economic changes, which alter land tenure, access to and availability of resources, and markets. The risks livestock producers have to manage are therefore constantly changing, requiring them to be highly adaptive.
ILRI’s vision recognizes the central importance livestock play in the food, nutritional and income security of rural households in the developing world. The ILRI Livestock Systems and Environment (LSE) research agenda therefore seeks to:
a) Provide accurate and relevant information about the impact of livestock on the environment
b) Place this impact in a context that gives adequate recognition to the important benefits of livestock, and
c) Mitigate the impact of current and future environmental change on livestock production systems.
The outcome we hope for is the uptake of strategies for the sustainable intensification of livestock production by farmers, policy and other decision makers, across the varied contexts in which ILRI works. We recognize that these strategies must be viable in the face of future changes and that trade-offs amongst development objectives are inevitable, but we maintain that these trade-offs can be more strategically resolved with the input of scientific evidence. LSE’s research takes an integrated systems approach to analysing the interactions among livestock systems and the environment at a range of scales, from global to local. A cornerstone of the program’s research is combining quantitative and modelling approaches with qualitative approaches, spanning the biophysical and social sciences.
LSE’s research is organized into four areas:
1. Adaptation and Resilience: This research aims to build capacity for adaptation to environmental change and resilient development processes that integrate the management of risk with the pursuit of prosperity, primarily in pastoral and agro-pastoral dryland environments. This agenda includes institutional and governance dimensions, as well as specific adaptation interventions such as livestock insurance (Index Based Livestock Insurance- IBLI) and early warning systems. Partnerships with national government ministries and agencies as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are critical to the impact of this research.
2. Understanding and managing the Environmental Footprint of livestock: This research aims to provide accurate and context-specific information on the environmental impacts of intensifying livestock production systems, particularly on nutrient cycles and GHG emissions. We combine empirical field measurements with modelling and spatial analysis, to provide relevant information to decision makers. The Mazingira lab is at the heart of this research.
3. Ecosystem Services and Natural Resource Management: This research aims to identify gaps, options, approaches and institutional mechanisms for enhancing the delivery of ecosystem services in livestock systems. Cost-benefit and trade-off analysis along with participatory approaches are used to promote rational resource allocation and better targeting of investments and interventions. Spatial analysis is a core tool for mapping and quantifying ecosystem services.
4. Drivers and interactions for sustainable Food Security: This research uses experimental, participatory action research, analysis and modelling approaches to identify test and evaluate livestock interventions to improve the food security status of smallholder producers. The research provides information on livestock current and future contributions to household food security under different user-defined scenarios across diverse livestock system types.
LSE research contributes to six CGIAR research programs (CRPs):
iii. Livestock and Fish
iv. Climate Change and Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
v. Agriculture for Nutrition and Health
vi. Water, Land and Ecosystems
The LSE program currently has 45 staff members, including 21 internationally recruited scientists. LSE also hosts CCAFS East Africa Regional Programme, and Theme 4.2 (Data and Tools). See the CCAFS website for more information.
Contact P.ericksen [at]cgiar.org for more information