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Climate-smart livestock production (CSL) is the application of practices that reduce the environmental impact of livestock production to increase resilience, productivity and profit, towards achieve sustainability. Over the last three decades, both local and international development organisations have implemented livestock development projects across Nigeria to strengthen the food system and empower smallholder livestock farmers through tailored approaches. These approaches include farmers’ capacity development on good animal husbandry practices, access to veterinary and breeding services, provision of infrastructure, financial literacy, and gender inclusion. The International Livestock Research Institute has documented that these interventions have contributed significantly to human nutrition, women empowerment, increased livestock productivity, and improved livelihoods.
The Current Situation
In 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimated that the Nigerian livestock sector produced 1,601 kt eq CO2 of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, this is more than Kenya’s livestock emissions estimated at 1,434 kt eq CO2, despite Kenya’s larger livestock population. Manure and feeding management are two critical pathways that emit carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide in livestock production. Several development organisations have implemented strategic and innovative approaches to increasing the productivity of smallholder livestock farmers, towards addressing the shortage of livestock products. These projects have focused primarily on productivity improvement through a wide range of interventions, such as veterinary and breeding services, knowledge transfer, and revitalisation of dry (unproductive) land for fodder production. While these projects have achieved remarkable impacts, the effects of climate change and loss of soil biodiversity are still forces that reverse these impacts.
Livestock production is affected by climate change through drought, rising heat waves, floods, disease outbreaks, and loss of soil biodiversity, while livestock production has been reported to contribute significantly to climate change principally through greenhouse gas emissions.
Increased soil biodiversity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions are the two key drivers of climate-smart livestock production
. In addition, the implementation and adoption of climate-smart livestock production principally depend on government policies, the availability of funding for tailored research and sustainable livestock projects, operationalisation of climate-smart livestock developmental projects, and mainstreaming of novel research outcomes. To significantly make a lasting impact in the Nigerian livestock sector, it is critical to invest in climate-smart livestock production.
In the short term, livestock development organisations need to integrate climate-smart livestock production, otherwise known as sustainability, into their project scope. Livestock production can be considered sustainable if it does not harm people, it preserves the environment, and is profitable to the farmers.
In addition to sustainability, carbon farming is another concept that needs to be mainstreamed into livestock development projects. It involves capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and storing it in the soil. It improves soil health by improving the soil structure, water retention capacity, and revitalising the soil biodiversity, which ultimately improves soil fertility to produce quality pasture to sustain livestock production.
Stakeholder Engagement, Policy Advocacy, and Capacity Development
Climate-smart livestock production is critical for the development of the Nigerian livestock industry, and it requires huge capital investment from donor partners and human and intellectual resources from development organisations. Nigeria has taken the first crucial step of updating and submitting the Nationally Determined Contribution document that reflects Nigeria’s efforts to lower its carbon footprint to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The next important step is the integration of these strategies into the National Livestock Transformation Plan, National Animal Feed Policy, National Dairy Policy and other livestock policies, to set clear short and long-term climate smart goals.
Every development organisation implementing livestock projects should be committed to achieving sustainability goals through a collaborative effort with the government and its relevant agencies. The adoption of climate-smart livestock practices in Nigeria requires a conscious effort by the implementing organisations, in order to improve the production practices of livestock farmers through tailored capacity development, revised implementation models, and a transparent monitoring and evaluation system.
Tracking Emission and Carbon Footprint
Similar to other anthropogenic carbon emissions, livestock activities leave a carbon footprint along the production value chain. It is important for organisations implementing livestock development projects to track greenhouse gas emissions across all the stages of production. Tracking the GHG emissions of livestock production will give a holistic view of the cumulative emissions and indicate which livestock production process emits the most GHGs and require immediate attention. While emission tracking is a novel idea in Nigeria’s livestock industry, it is the most efficient way of tracking and proffering mitigating measures to livestock GHG emissions. Several emission tracking tools could be tailored to the Nigerian context, such as the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM), Sustainability Assessment of Food and Agriculture (SAFA), and Economics and Policy Innovations for Climate Smart Agriculture (EPIC). In addition to tracking, these tools can simulate scenarios to give an overview of the expected emission in response to a proposed change in production practices.
Knowledge Sharing Between Research Institutions and Development Agencies
The potential of research institutions in Nigeria has not been sufficiently harnessed. Livestock development projects need to deepen collaboration with dedicated research institutions and Nigerian universities, to leverage their expertise and resources to develop tailored innovative practices that would enhance the adoption of climate-smart livestock practices and their impact on food security.
Nigeria’s livestock population is estimated at 18.4 million cattle, 43.4 million sheep, 76 million goats, and 180 million poultry. This livestock population does not just require high quantities of feed but also emits large volumes of greenhouse gases. A strategic breeding programme will increase productivity, while reducing the livestock population. This will decrease the quantities of feed required and ultimately lessen the carbon footprint through ruminal digestion and manure handling.
Improved Management Practices
Climate-smart livestock practices can be incorporated into the daily and occasional routine management of livestock farming. Practices such as efficient grazing enhance soil biodiversity and soil carbon sequestration and conservation. In addition, manure emits nitrous oxide in the presence of oxygen and methane in the absence of oxygen. Manure mono-fermentation is an efficient procedure for generating methane, a renewable energy from manure in the absence of oxygen. This could serve as additional income for farmers’ cooperatives.
Nigeria and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa are endowed with livestock that has adapted to the tropical nature of the continent; however, incessant climate change has made adaptability and resilience difficult for the local livestock breeds. In the long term, there is need to develop improved breeds of livestock that will be more tolerant of the effects of climate change, in order to ensure food security. The improved breeds of livestock would have improved feed efficiency, leading to increased milk and meat production, resilience towards the increasingly hot climatic condition, and disease resistance.
Potential Challenges That Could Limit the Implementation of Climate-smart Livestock Project in Nigeria
The novelty of climate-smart livestock production will pose a challenge towards its implementation. The followings are some key potential challenges and next steps:
Limited Policy Framework: The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and several other stakeholders has done a tremendous job in developing policy frameworks to increase livestock productivity through the National Livestock Transformation Plan, Dairy Policy Framework, and National Animal Feed Policy. It is critical to integrate climate-smart practices in these policies to align with international best practices. In addition, it would also fast-track the timeline to achieve the policy goals and reduce the financial resources required to achieve sustainable food security through the livestock sector.
Insufficient Experts: While climate-smart livestock production is a topic of interest in the international community, it is gradually gaining the interest of local stakeholders. However, only a few professionals can develop working policy frameworks and mainstreaming strategies. In addition to local professionals, experts from countries with similar climatic conditions can be engaged to bridge this gap.
Limited Awareness: Without any doubt, the leading goal of the majority of the stakeholders in livestock production is to grow profits through increased productivity. These stakeholders are aware of the management practices that could expand productivity. Most of these practices contribute to increased GHG emissions and reduce soil biodiversity. It is critical to developing a solid awareness strategy to inform the stakeholders (farmers and input suppliers) about the benefits of climate-smart livestock production to the people, the planet, and their profits.
Livestock production has been a major source of sustenance for millions of Nigerians through employment opportunities along its value chain and as a source of food. Data and reality have confirmed that our current method of livestock production is harmful to the environment and the planet. It is high time all stakeholders involved in the livestock value chain responded strategically and synergistically to save the environment.
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