Conversion of pastures to croplands is big climate change threat

New study results are warning that the conversion of pasturelands to croplands will be the major contributor to global warming in East Africa.

Climate change threat

Climate change is a real and current threat to households and communities already struggling to survive in east Africa. Global climate modelling results indicate that the region will experience wetter and warmer conditions as well as decreases in agricultural productivity. However, results just released by the Climate Land Interaction Project (CLIP) forecast that there will be a high degree of variability within the region with some areas becoming wetter and others drier. This research provides evidence of the complex connection between regional changes in climate and changes in land cover and land use. The results forecast the conversion of vast amounts of land from grasslands to croplands over the next 40 years, with serious consequences for the environment.

Climate Land Interaction Project (CLIP)
CLIP is a joint research project of Michigan State University (MSU) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), exploring important linkages between land use/cover changes and climatic changes in east Africa.

CLIP researchers, together with the Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, organised a workshop to present CLIP modelling results to key decision-makers in Kenya. The workshop, held in Nairobi, highlighted the policy and technical implications and options for climate change adaptations in Kenya.

CLIP researcher and professor at MSU, Jeffrey Andresen, warns that the erosion of east African grazing lands is a major threat facing Kenya and other east African countries. ‘Results of running these models indicate that the greatest amount of contribution to global warming in the east Africa region is not going to be motor vehicles or methane emissions from livestock or conversions of forests to pastures but rather conversion of pasturelands to croplands’ says Andresen.

Projected climate and land use changes in northern Kenya
Based on climate change scenarios (CLIP analysis and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) forecasts) northern Kenya will experience significant changes in rainfall and temperatures with some places becoming wetter and others drier. These changes will have dramatic impacts on ground cover and vegetation, especially the distribution and composition of grass species that form pastures for livestock and on which many people depend for their livelihoods.

Simulation models predict that areas in the remote northeast around Wajir, for example, will have greater vegetation cover and become much bushier than at present. Grazing lands are already scarce and the increasing encroachment of bush into grazing areas will create further problems for livestock keepers.

The quantity and quality of water will also be affected by the forecast changes in rainfall patterns and temperature regimes. These changes will not only affect water availability for humans and livestock but also accelerate the rate of vegetation change in different and opposite ways for different places. The ratio of tall to short grass species and closed to open vegetation, for example, depend partially on soil moisture content. It is likely that the anticipated climatic changes will greatly alter the grass ratios and these changes will then exert adverse effects on feed resources for livestock and significantly modify herd composition. In addition, traditional land management interventions, such as the use of fires and overgrazing may increase the scale, intensity and speed of these impacts.

CLIP researcher and ILRI scientist, Joseph Mworia Maitima concludes ‘Many millions of Kenyans already face severe poverty and constraints in pursuing a livelihood. But, with these projected increasing environmental stresses, they are going to become even more vulnerable.

‘It’s crucial that we now start talking about the technical and policy

Download CLIP brief

CLIP Brief: Policy implications of land climate interactions, June 2008

Related information:

Severe weather coming: Experts (Daily Nation, 13 August 2008)

Kenya: Severe weather coming – Experts (All Africa, 13 August 2008)


Joseph M. Maitima
International Livestock Research Institute
Nairobi, Kenya

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

With soaring food prices, indigenous peoples in India are going back to raising small local black pigs. With knowledge-based support, they could tap into new market opportunities and double their incomes.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis is Nagaland, one of India’s most insecure and poorest states. It is in the country’s mountainous northeast corner. 

Remarkably, even remote villages here are affected by the rising global prices of milk, meat and cereals.

Most Naga ethnic groups have always kept pigs. Pork remains their preferred meat. Now, today’s skyrocketing grain prices mean the small black pigs these tribal peoples keep, which are adapted to local feed resources, have suddenly become more attractive than big white imported pigs, which have to be fed on expensive grain.


India: Poverty Statistics

India: Over 300 million people, 27.5% of the population live below the poverty line.

Northeast India is the easternmost region consisting of the Seven Sister States. It is home to 38 million people. The region is linguistically and culturally very distinct from the other states of India and officially recognized as a special category of States.

Nagaland is home to 1.99 million people. 19% of the population or 399,000 people live below the poverty line of which 387,000 live in rural areas.

Assam is home to 26.6 million people. 19.7% of the population or 557,700 people live below the poverty line, 545,000 of them in rural areas.

Poverty statistics source: Government of India Planning Commission (2007) Poverty estimates 2004-05.

Pig income for livelihoods and education 

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and Nagaland

‘Apart from keeping pigs and farming, women like us don’t have any other ways to make money.

A window of opportunity for small pig farmers

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandPig farmers in Nagaland and Assam now have a window of opportunity to step up their pig production and sell their native animals across the two states.
But as markets for pigs are getting larger, so is the market chain, making the business of supplying disease free, safe meat increasingly hard for small producers.  On top of that, there are no functioning breeding schemes or feed systems that would allow farmers to intensify.

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandThis lack of quality knowledge is stopping expansion in a rapidly changing industry that could benefit many of the most vulnerable members of society, such as women and children. Without this critical knowledge-based support the opportunity for millions of the world’s poor to climb out of poverty through enhanced pig farming and marketing will be lost.

A local solution for rising prices

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandDevelopment agencies have tried for decades to raise the very low household incomes in Assam and Nagaland. But even though pig keeping is central to the livelihoods of the poor and especially poor women, pig production has seldom been viewed as a development tool for the region.
This is peculiar because until recently local demand for pork was so great that it was profitable for local business people to import large numbers of commercial white pigs from producers in India’s grain states further west.  Animals were being transported 2000-3000 kilometres, at a cost of USD40 each.

But grain-based feeds and transport have both recently shot up in price, adding even more to the cost.  People in Assam and Nagaland are suddenly finding the imported white pigs far too expensive. A new market is growing fast for the local black and cross-bred pigs. Because these native animals can be fed mostly on low-cost feed crops and crop wastes, they are an ideal solution to fill the new pork and piglet supply gap. 

Knowledge-based support needed to tap into fast changing markets

Pig marketing opportunities in Assam and NagalandHowever because markets are changing so fast smallholder farmers can no longer make it alone.  They lack access to information and resources, linkages to health and breeding services, business support, and feeding systems.  All these are vital if they are to expand while also meeting increasingly demanding new health and safety standards. This short-term opportunity is ready-made for success. The pigs are there, the demand is there, and farmers ambitious to grow their pig enterprises are also there.

With relevant knowledge and training, both of which ILRI with its national partners are ready to provide, most tribal households in these states could boost their herd sizes and double their incomes sustainably and in a cost-effective way over the next 5–10 years.

Without support, millions of people will increasingly suffer poverty, conflicts, and the loss of dignity that goes with forced migration to cities. However, with help, they can maintain the traditional livelihoods that sustain communities and generate prosperity.

ILRI’s representative for Asia, Iain Wright, says ‘We are working with national partners to gain support for helping poor people seize this big pig marketing opportunity in Nagaland, Assam and other northeast states.

‘We have recently started a project with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the School of Agricultural Science and Rural Development, Nagaland University, to implement a programe of research to improve the production and marketing of pigs in selected villages in Mon District, Nagaland. We’re also looking at working on similar projects with national partners in other notheastern states’, says Wright.

Background information:
The Nagaland pig production and marketing project is funded by the National Agricultural Innovation Project with a contribution from the International Fund for Agricultural Development and aims to develop sustainable solutions to livelihood improvement in one of the poorest districts in India.


Investigating new livelihood options for pastoralists

Research is identifying new development options that will help pastoral peoples and lands of the South adapt to big and fast changes.

livelihood optionsOver 180 million people in the developing world, especially in dry areas, depend solely on livestock and pastoral systems for their livelihoods. Grassland-based pastoral and agro-pastoral systems are undergoing unprecedented changes that are bringing new opportunities as well as problems. Research is helping to identify new development options for pastoralists that reduce risks and enhance their ability to adapt to changing climates, markets and circumstances.

Pastoral lands are crucial for the production of ecosystem goods and services, for tourism and for mitigating climate change. Pastoral systems can no longer be viewed as livestock enterprises, but as multiple-use systems that have important consequences for the environment and more diversified livelihood strategies.

Opportunities and challenges in tropical rangelands
A new paper, written by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), describes the major drivers and trends of dryland tropical pastoral and agro-pastoral systems and the challenges they present for development agendas. The paper, entitled Livestock production and poverty alleviation – challenges and opportunities in arid and semi-arid tropical rangeland based systems, gives examples of how research is providing new development options that should make drylands more attractive for public and private investment. The authors urge for a more holistic research agenda that will take into account the socio-economic and ecological synergies and trade-offs inherent in pastoral people taking up new livelihood opportunities.

livelihoodILRI’s director general and lead author of the paper, Carlos Seré, presented the paper at a joint meeting of the International Grasslands and Rangelands Congresses, held 29 June–5 July 2008, in Hohhot, in China’s Inner Mongolia.

Seré says: ‘Perceptions about arid pastoral regions are changing rapidly as we recognize the many functions these ecosystems provide and the new development options available.

‘Pastoralism can no longer be seen as a “tragedy” for common grazing areas but rather as a production system with great potential to sustain complex livelihood strategies.

‘Balancing the needs for increased productivity, environmental protection and improved livelihoods in these fragile drylands will help us address the needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable peoples’.

New development options for pastoral peoples and lands
Much conventional research has focused on increasing the productivity of drylands, for example, by improving livestock and feed management. However, big and fast changes mean that there is a need for an expanded, more integrated, research agenda that investigates what options will work best in given areas and circumstances and how pastoral peoples and lands will benefit.

The new development options need to ease the transitions in pastoral livelihoods that will be necessary in the coming decades and focus on ways to mitigate pastoral risk and encourage adoption of new livelihoods. Poor households may have opportunities to engage in livelihood strategies outside traditional livestock production, such as payments for ecosystem goods and services such as water purification and carbon sequestration. Others may have opportunities to combine livestock keeping with new or increased incomes generated through expanded eco- and wildlife tourism, biofuel production and niche markets for speciality livestock products.

Download Livestock production and poverty alleviation paper and presentation

Livestock production and poverty alleviation, C. Seré et al. June 2008

C. Seré, A. Ayantunde, A. Duncan, A. Freeman, M. Herrero, S. Tarawali and I. Wright (2008). Livestock production and poverty alleviation – challenges and opportunities in arid and semi-arid tropical rangeland based systems. International Livestock Research Institute, P.O. Box 30709, Nairobi, Kenya.

Impacts from ILRI and partner pastoral research
Studies in Africa, combining climate change predictions and proxy indicators of vulnerability, identified areas on the continent most vulnerable to climate change.

Studies in Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia identified economic shocks, drought, livestock losses due to animal diseases, and declining livestock service delivery as major sources of pastoral vulnerability. The study noted marked differences in the ownership of productive assets, livelihood strategies and vulnerability between men and women. This meant that women and female-headed households are still more vulnerable than the general population—and this in spite of the fact that young men are increasingly emigrating from pastoral to urban areas, leaving ever larger numbers of women as heads of pastoral households.

A participatory pastoral project in East Africa created knowledge and relationships that enabled poor Maasai agro-pastoral communities to influence district and national land-use policies affecting their livelihoods and wildlife-rich landscapes. Locals worked with researchers as community facilitators and played a key role in GIS mapping, representing the interests of their communities to local and national policymakers and delivering the maps and other knowledge products that are helping to protect their wildlife and secure additional income from wildlife tourism.

Studies in West Africa show that typically it is traders that dictate livestock prices because livestock producers and sellers lack accurate and up-to-date price information. Producers thus have little incentive to increase their livestock production even though a wide range of cross-regional links exist that could greatly increase their market opportunities. This research showed that West Africa’s pastoralists could increase their incomes by entering the growing regional livestock markets if provided with credit for value-added processing, reduced transportation and handling costs, livestock market information systems, and harmonized regional livestock trade policies.

Other studies have identified that new market opportunities for pastoralists are opening due to increasing demands from affluent members of society. Growing niche markets for certain locally preferred breeds of animals (Sudan desert sheep) or animal products (El Chaco beef), for example, are starting to be exploited in pastoral regions.

Carlos Seré
Director General, ILRI
Telephone: +254 (20) 422 3201/2