Livestock background paper for World Development Report 2010: Development in a changing climate

Household takes refuge from the rain in central Malawi

Household takes refuge from the rain in central Malawi (photo by ILRI/Mann).

A paper on livestock and climate change—'The inter-linkages between rapid growth in livestock production, climate change, and the impacts on water resources, land use, and deforestation'—was prepared as a background paper to the World Bank’s acclaimed World Development Report 2010: Development in a Changing Climate. It was written by two agricultural systems analysts at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Philip Thornton and Mario Herrero.

The following is the abstract to the paper.

'Livestock systems globally are changing rapidly in response to human population growth, urbanization, and growing incomes. This paper discusses the linkages between burgeoning demand for livestock products, growth in livestock production, and the impacts this may have on natural resources, and how these may both affect and be affected by climate change in the coming decades.

'Water and land scarcity will increasingly have the potential to constrain food production growth, with adverse impacts on food security and human well-being. Climate change will exacerbate many of these trends, with direct effects on agricultural yields, water availability, and production risk.

'In the transition to a carbon-constrained economy, livestock systems will have a key role to play in mitigating future emissions. At the same time, appropriate pricing of greenhouse gas emissions will modify livestock production costs and patterns. Health and ethical considerations can also be expected to play an increasing role in modifying consumption patterns of livestock products, particularly in more developed countries.

'Livestock systems are heterogeneous, and a highly differentiated approach needs to be taken to assessing impacts and options, particularly as they affect the resource-poor and those vulnerable to global change. Development of comprehensive frameworks that can be used for assessing impacts and analyzing trade-offs at both local and regional levels is needed for identifying and targeting production practices and policies that are locally appropriate and can contribute to environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, and economic development.'

About the World Development Report 2010:
'Today's enormous development challenges are complicated by the reality of climate change─the two are inextricably linked and together demand immediate attention. Climate change threatens all countries, but particularly developing ones. Understanding what climate change means for development policy is the central aim of the World Development Report 2010.

'Estimates are that developing countries would bear some 75 to 80 percent of the costs of anticipated damages caused by the changing climate. Developing countries simply cannot afford to ignore climate change, nor can they focus on adaptation alone. So action to reduce vulnerability and lay the groundwork for a transition to low-carbon growth paths is imperative.

'The World Development Report 2010 explores how public policy can change to better help people cope with new or worsened risks, how land and water management must adapt to better protect a threatened natural environment while feeding an expanding and more prosperous population, and how energy systems will need to be transformed.

'The authors examine how to integrate development realities into climate policy─in international agreements, in instruments to generate carbon finance, and in steps to promote innovation and the diffusion of new technologies.

'The World Development Report 2010 is an urgent call for action, both for developing countries who are striving to ensure policies are adapted to the realities and dangers of a hotter planet, and for high-income countries who need to undertake ambitious mitigation while supporting developing countries efforts.

'The authors argue that a climate-smart world is within reach if we act now to tackle the substantial inertia in the climate, in infrastructure, and in behaviors and institutions; if we act together to reconcile needed growth with prudent and affordable development choices; and if we act differently by investing in the needed energy revolution and taking the steps required to adapt to a rapidly changing planet.'

Read more of ILRI livestock background paper: World Bank Policy Research Working Paper, 'The inter-linkages between rapid growth in livestock production, climate change, and the impacts on water resources, land use, and deforestation', 2010, by Philip Thornton and Mario Herrero.

Livestock use of water in Nile Basin: Huge opportunities to use water resources more effectively

Principal investigators undertaking research on livestock use of water in the Nile River Basin met at ILRI in Ethiopia on 11 and 12 November 2009.

Representatives from Sudan’s Agricultural Economics and Policy Research Center, Makerere University in Kampala, and the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research shared experiences of promising technologies and policy innovations that can enable millions of poor livestock keepers and farmers to enhance food production and livelihoods and reverse land degradation throughout vast Nile region.

Ethiopia, Sudan, and Uganda are very different countries but together they exemplify the major and diverse cropping and livestock keeping practices found in the Nile region. Rainfed crop and livestock production are dominant, but irrigation is locally important.

In all cases, the researchers concluded that there are huge opportunities to use water resources more effectively and productive for agricultural production. The key appears to be integrated inter-institutional collaboration with coherent policy aimed at increasing livestock water productivity through use of water efficient animal feeds, water conservation, adoption of state-of-the-art and available animal science knowledge.

Application of off-the-shelf science based outputs potentially enables environmentally sustainable increases in food production, improved domestic water, and better livelihoods. Much of the water required to achieve these benefits can come from rainfall that currently does not enter the Nile’s lakes and water course and does not sustain the natural environment. In other words, this is water for which there is often relatively little competition among diverse water users.

The researchers are synthesizing results from investigation undertaken in the basin.

It was supported by the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (

Report by Don Peden, ILRI

ILRI and partners launch project to increase livestock water productivity in the Nile Basin

ILRI and partners launch an innovative livestock-water project at a workshop in Kampala, Uganda.

ILRI and partners launched an innovative livestock-water project at a workshop, which ran from 5 – 9 September. Participants identified technological, policy and behavioral changes that would allow livestock to become effective and productive users of the scarce water resources of the Nile Basin.

CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) Brochure

The Nile waters sustain life for about 200 million people, many of whom are desper­ate­ly poor, from ten African countries. Water shortages already constrain food produc­tion in much of the Basin.

CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) News Release 1 September 2005

Livestock have been overlooked in water management programs. But the amount of water depleted by livestock in the Basin appears to be at least as great as that used to produce human food. (Production of livestock feed requires 50 to 100 times more water than animals drink.) A rising demand for livestock foods in these countries is placing even greater demand on water resources.

CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) Brochure

Uganda's State Minister for Animal Industry, Ms. Mary Mugyenyi, opened the workshop, ‘Nile Basin Water Productivity: Developing a Shared Vision for Livestock Production’, which was also attended by Dr. Carlos Seré, ILRI’s Director General.

CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) Brochure

For news items on the workshop and extracts from Carlos Seré's speech, click on the following links:

Monitor (Uganda) and All Africa Wire Service
People's Daily (China)
Sudan Tribune
Xinhua (China)

Blue Revolution follows Livestock Revolution

ILRI director and economist Christopher Delgado says that Asia's abundance of labour makes aquaculture attractive for the region, where farmers are raising fish in abandoned ponds and ditches to sell at markets, thus earning them an income as well as helping them to feed their families. ILRI director and economist Christopher Delgado is quoted in the Des Moines Register newspaper this June. Dr. Delgado leads research on both fish and ruminant livestock revolutions at ILRI and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington DC.


Des Moines Register (USA) article, 11 June 2005 – Indian scientist wins food prize