Kenya’s dairy cows are in danger as a result of climate change, reveals research by the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research’s (CGIAR) International Researchers from the International (ILRI).
“Projections show that, in the coming years, heat stress in animals will occur more frequently and for longer periods. This will affect milk and meat productivity for cattle, small ruminants (like goats and sheep), pigs and poultry across East Africa.
“This will make much of the region unsuitable for exotic pig, poultry and cattle production – animals whose productivity is easily compromised by heat stress,” the report reads.
“Rising heat and humidity are already causing a drop in Tanzanian dairy cattle’s milk yields, hitting the income of smallholder dairy farmers.”
Heat stress levels among livestock in Uganda have also been noted to be increasing. By the end of the century, more than 90% of Uganda’s districts are predicted to report “severe heat stress” levels in danger, particularly in the pig sector.
Impact on pork industry
Currently, more than two million Ugandan households are kept afloat by the country’s pork industry, as it accounts for the highest per capita consumption of pork in East Africa.
“The Index Based Livestock Insurance programme launched by the ILRI protects livestock keepers in drought-prone arid and semi-arid lands in Kenya and Ethiopia from climate-related losses. Unlike traditional insurance programmes, which pay out on the loss of the animal, it is tied to climatic conditions – such as the amount of rainfall and distribution of pasture availability – over a season.
“By tying the pay-outs to objective criteria, the programme avoids the moral hazards of traditional insurance programmes while giving herders the resources to help their animals survive periods of sustained crisis,” the ILRI says.
“Rangeland ecology in East and West Africa rationalises land use and protect livelihoods. Community land management programmes help resolve conflicts between land users.
“Building climate-resilient livestock systems to cope with these challenges requires concerted, coordinated action from investors and policymakers at the national and global levels. This will need to be informed by a solid research base that scientists have only started to assemble with the minimal funds allocated so far.
“To meet these challenges, investors and politicians at both the national and global levels must work together to develop climate-resilient livestock systems. This will require a robust scientific foundation, which scientists have only begun to build with the little money available so far.”
The cost of livestock mitigation and adaption efforts over the next five years is expected to be in the billions of dollars, with much of it coming from partners in the form of funding, technology development and transfer, and capacity building.