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Focus on... Livestock and climate change

Worldwide, the livestock sector is growing faster than any other agricultural sub-sector, providing livelihoods for around 1.3 billion people and contributing about 40 percent to global agricultural output. In poor countries, livestock are also a source of renewable energy and fertiliser.

However, the livestock sector accounts for a significant proportion of the carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane produced from human-related activities. With global meat and milk production forecast to double by 2050, the contribution of livestock to global warming is likely to increase. And methane (23 times) and nitrous oxide (296 times) are considerably more potent greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide.

Consequently, the livestock sector is often condemned for its contribution to climate change but poor smallscale livestock keepers and pastoralists are more likely to be impacted by climate change than to contribute significantly to global warming. In this edition of New Agriculturist, we focus on some of the likely impacts of climate change on the livestock sector in the developing world, and on a selection of approaches and initiatives from different regions which demonstrate the resilience of livestock keepers and their determination to survive.

Pastoralists: coping with climate change

Pastoralists: coping with climate change

Prolonged dry periods and sporadic heavy rain are testing the resilience of pastoralists in the Horn of Africa. In response to these challenges, innovative examples of adaptation were shared at a recent conference, Pastoralism and Climate Change Adaptation, held at Egerton University in Nakuru, Kenya.

Date published: July 2010

Coping with extreme cold - livestock in the Andes

Coping with extreme cold - livestock in the Andes

In recent years, extreme weather events in the high-altitude Andean plains have become more frequent and severe, increasing the vulnerability of smallscale livestock keepers. In response, FAO launched an emergency support programme to help camelid keepers improve their fodder production and herd management.

Date published: July 2010

Conserving water for livestock in Butana, Sudan

Conserving water for livestock in Butana, Sudan

Livestock have always been fundamental to life in some of the world's driest places. But with many dry areas becoming even drier, more livestock are competing for less water and rangelands are failing to provide food through the year. In the Butana region of Sudan, however, communities are demonstrating how to make the most of their small share of resources.

Date published: July 2010

A brewing storm for livestock disease?

A brewing storm for livestock disease?

Rift Valley fever is one of a number of transboundary livestock diseases which impact on livestock keepers across Africa. But climate change is altering disease distribution, as vectors such as mosquitoes move to new habitats, making prediction and control of disease outbreaks difficult.

Date published: July 2010

More milk, less methane

More milk, less methane

Livestock production faces continuing global criticism for the environmental damage caused by its emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. To be environmentally friendly, further development of livestock production systems will have to rely on increased efficiency of production rather than increased numbers of animals.

Date published: July 2010

Livestock insurance: reducing vulnerability

Livestock insurance: reducing vulnerability

Faced with extreme conditions pastoralists have to rely upon traditional coping mechanisms and support from governments and international agencies. But two index-based livestock insurance programmes are providing pastoralists in Mongolia and northern Kenya with the tools to help them cope with climate-related risks.

Date published: July 2010

Brachiaria - grass roots answer to nitrification

Brachiaria - grass roots answer to nitrification

Brachiaria humidicola, a species of grass used to feed livestock in Latin America, could be a valuable tool in tackling climate change. The plant roots produce a chemical that inhibits the conversion of fertiliser nitrogen into nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas. Scientists are now investigating how brachiaria could be used in developing low nitrifying crop-livestock systems.

Date published: July 2010

 

 

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