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Heat stress will detrimentally impact future livestock production in East Africa

Published by:
Online Location
Publication date
Type of Publication:
Articles & Journals
Focus Region:
Sub-Saharan Africa
Focus Topic:
Climate / Weather / Environment
Type of Risk:
Biological & environmental
Natural disasters
Type of Risk Managment Option:
Risk assessment
Risk reduction/mitigation
Jaber Rahimi, John Yumbya Mutua, An M. O. Notenbaert, Karen Marshall & Klaus Butterbach-Bahl


Climate change-induced increases in temperature and humidity are predicted to impact East African food systems, but the extent to which heat stress negatively affects livestock production in this region is poorly understood. Here we use ERA‐Interim reanalysis data to show that the frequency of ‘Severe/Danger’ heat events for dairy cattle, beef cattle, sheep, goats, swine and poultry significantly increased from 1981 to 2010. Using a multi-model ensemble of climate change projections for 2021–2050 and 2071–2100 (under representative concentration pathway (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 by the coordinated regional-climate downscaling experiment for Africa (CORDEX-AFRICA)), we show that the frequency of dangerous heat-stress conditions and the average number of consecutive days with heat stress events will significantly increase, particularly for swine and poultry. Our assessment suggests that 4–19% of livestock production occurs in areas where dangerous heat stress events are likely to increase in frequency from 2071 to 2100. With demand for animal products predicted to grow in East Africa, production-specific heat-stress mitigation measures and breeding programmes for increasing heat tolerance are urgently needed for future livestock sector productivity—and future food security—in East Africa.