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February 28th, 2017

Assessing the environmental impacts of livestock and fish production

Published by CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish,

This brief (PDF) by the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish introduces different streams of work to develop and test tools to assess the environmental impacts of livestock and fish production in developing countries. While livestock production has for some time been linked to deforestation, land degradation, biodiversity loss and water scarcity, more recent studies, and particularly the publication of the 2006 FAO report ‘Livestock’s long shadow’ indicate that livestock is also a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As demand for livestock products continues to grow, driven by rising population and dietary shifts, there is an urgent need to develop strategies to reduce the environmental footprints and GHG emission intensity from livestock. The first step in this process is to develop tools to estimate potential impacts of such strategies. One way of reducing impacts is to cut consumption of livestock products. However, these sectors make a valuable welfare contributions in many economies. Reduced consumption could threaten the livelihoods of vulnerable producers and value chain actors as well as the nutrition security of large populations in the developing world. Another option is improve the resource-use efficiency of livestock practices which is believed would result in rapid environmental gains. Tackling this requires that we have reliable tools to estimate and model potential impacts of improved livestock practices along value chains (see a review of assessments). In recent years, the Livestock and Fish CGIAR Research Program developed and tested tools to estimate the environmental impacts of livestock value chains under the CLEANED project –  mainly with dairy value chains in Tanzania and Nicaragua. Results of the assessments carried out in Egypt, Nicaragua and Tanzania show that there are clearly identifiable win–win scenarios where immediate benefits, such as increased productivity, incomes and ecosystem services, such as soil fertility, water availability and biodiversity, can incentivize farmers to adopt improved practices and technologies, while reducing environmental impacts.

Curated from livestockfish.cgiar.org