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The livestock-climate-poverty nexus – A discussion paper on ILRI research in relation to climate change

Published by:
Publication date
Number of Pages
Type of Publication:
Working Papers & Briefs
Focus Region:
Focus Topic:
Climate / Weather / Environment
Knowledge Management
Type of Risk:
Weather & Climate related
Thornton, P.K.; van de Steeg, J.; Notenbaert, A.; Herrero, M.

Climate change will have severe impacts in many parts of the tropics and subtropics. Despite the importance of livestock to poor people and the magnitude of the changes that are likely to befall livestock systems, the intersection of climate change and livestock is a relatively neglected
research area. Little is known about the interactions of climate and increasing climate variability with other drivers of change in livestock systems and in broader development trends. Evidence is being assembled that the temporal and spatial heterogeneity of household responses may be very large. While opportunities may exist for some households to take advantage of more conducive rangeland and cropping conditions, for example, the changes projected will pose very serious problems for many other households. Furthermore, ruminant livestock themselves have important impacts on climate, through the emission of methane and through the land-use change that may be brought about by livestock keepers.

Given that climate change is now being seen as a key development challenge, and that a very large global community is already working on climate-change-related issues, the CGIAR in general, and ILRI in particular, need to consider carefully how the research agenda might be
adjusted to respond. While the global environmental change community is very large, ILRI as a small institute can still contribute effectively to the climate change/development debate by focusing on a few key niches, through alliances with carefully chosen collaborators. This
discussion paper is an attempt to assemble and summarise relevant information concerning climate change, livestock and development, and to identify what these key niches might be.

The report briefly summarises what is known about climate change and its effects on agroecosystems, and summarises the current limits to prediction. It reviews the literature on climate change impacts on livestock and livestock impacts on climate, and thus sets out to answer the
question, what do we know? Knowledge and data gaps are then identified, and a synthesis presented in relation to our clients and stakeholders and to alternative providers of knowledge and information. The paper ends by looking at the questions, what do we not know, and what should we do about it, with a discussion of recommendations for ILRI activities in the area, and the strategic alliances needed, some of which already exist.