Better understanding of mixed crop and livestock systems needed under climate change

crop-livestock ILRI

Photo: ILRI

A recent article in Nature Climate Change highlights the importance of mixed crop and livestock systems to national development, climate adaptation and resilience building, farmers’ livelihoods and the globe’s food demand.

The authors­ including from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)­ say the global community is underestimating the importance of livestock on farms in the developing world. This includes both underestimating the social and economic value as well as the importance of mixed-farm systems in supporting local climate adaptation, resilience building and greenhouse gas reductions.

Farming systems that combine crops and livestock produce over 90 per cent of the world’s milk and 80 per cent of the meat from ruminants, while providing incomes and livelihoods for millions of people in the tropics.

While livestock can help make farmers become more resilient to changes in the climate (through more efficient use of natural resources and providing a buffer against crop losses) little is known about how long-term climate impacts on cows, goats and poultry. There is also relatively little information on how crop-livestock interactions may be affected by changes in climate and climate variability.

The article highlights the critical need to address livestock’s contribution to climate change while also ensuring smallholders are supported as temperatures rise and rainfall becomes increasingly erratic. There is also a need to learn more about the interactions between crops and livestock, and how these interactions can contribute to environmentally sustainable intensification and better risk management.

Download the article:

Thornton P.K. and Herrero M. (2015) Adapting to climate change in the mixed crop and livestock farming systems in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature Climate Change 5: pp 830–836.

See also:

Why mixed crop and livestock farming systems are central for future agriculture development (CCAFS website)

Why farms of the future need to mix livestock and crops (DEVEX)'

Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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