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The road to climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming

September 15, 2016

Since the release of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Report “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options”, the livestock industry worldwide drew intense scrutiny as to its contribution to the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, a factor in climate change. There is hardly any sector of human and economic activity without a distinct contribution to climate change, and many institutions are working tirelessly to create innovative climate-resilient solutions. In fact, building climate resilience requires as much work in the livestock sector as in any other economic sector: crop, mining, industrial processing and manufacturing.

Livestock and greenhouse gas emission

It is estimated that 14% of human-generated greenhouse gases are as a result of agriculture; and that almost half of all methane and nearly 60% of nitrous oxide emissions are generated by agricultural activities, including livestock production. There is a growing portfolio of work completed and on going – global, regional and national – on multiple fronts to reduce the contribution of the livestock sector to climate change.

From 13–15 September 2016, CTA and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) are organising a regional meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, to "build climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming in Southern Africa". This regional meeting was conceived through collaborative processes and partnerships to address climate change issues. CTA and partners have identified four proven solutions that cereal and livestock farmers can adopt to make the transition to climate-resilient agriculture: stress-tolerant germplasm, ICT-enabled climate information services, diversifying livestock-based livelihoods and weather-based insurance.

Solutions to ensure profitability and sustainability

The validated solutions specifically aimed at cereal and livestock farmers reaffirm the importance of farmers as central actors in agricultural development. As the meeting's participants acknowledged, farmers are entrepreneurs, business people, and strive to increase their farming enterprises' profitability as well as improve their livelihoods. But in order to realise the full benefits of the tested solutions, livestock farmers require support – financial, institutional and intellectual – from stakeholders to remain climate-resilient.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), a Nairobi-based research organisation, as represented by the Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Dr Sikhalazo Dube, encourages diversification of livestock as one of the means to build resilience, pursuing this goal through a range of targeted programmes, interventions and strategies. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of livestock around the region as a result of drought and other factors should not discourage the affected farmers, and also organisations such as CTA and its partners to implement new solutions. It is an opportunity, awaiting exploration. ILRI's work in reducing the greenhouse gas emissions in the agricultural sector is already informing research, policy and education in the region. In addition, diversification of livestock is an option of choice, as it can be implemented at the farmer's level.

Animal protein as supplied from fish, meat and eggs, is a key to healthy producers, farmers, community and leaders. Its important contribution to food security and nutrition ensures that farmers, partners and communities are not only climate-resilient but that they essentially discover the true meaning of being 'climate-smart'.

Blog post by Raymond Erick Zvavanyange, Social Reporter for the Regional planning meeting on 'Scaling-Up Climate-Smart Agricultural Solutions for Cereals and Livestock Farmers in Southern Africa'.

Dr Theo De Jager, Chairman of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions, talks about climate change, its impact on farmers in Southern Africa and the role of farmers, especially smallholders, in climate-resilient agriculture. 

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Read more

Publication: 'Climate Solutions that Work for Farmers' (CTA, 2016)

Article: 'Building climate-resilient cereal and livestock farming in southern Africa'

Blog post: 'Knowledge management to support ICT-enabled climate information services'