Towards Climate-Smart Livestock Systems

24 January 2024


Livestock production clearly contributes to climate change, but it is also affected by changing climates. Nowhere is the stake higher than in Sub-Saharan Africa, where livestock keepers are on the frontline, already grappling with the harsh realities of climate change. For many, livestock is not just a component of agriculture; it’s the very backbone of their livelihoods. The urgency is real—more and more livestock keepers are on the edge of extreme poverty. The complexity of the livestock issue necessitates solutions that boost productivity without exacerbating the natural resources and are implementable by the most vulnerable, ensuring inclusivity.

With a focus on combining scientific data collection and solution-led field research on climate-smart livestock production, join us for an in-depth discussion with leading experts.



Dr. Catherine Pfeifer

Group leader in the Food System Science department at FiBL


Dr. Todd Crane

Head of Delegation & Principal scientist, Climate change adaptation at ILRI


Dr. Alejandro Parodi

Postdoctoral researcher at the Farm Systems Ecology Group of WUR



  • Prioritising people’s livelihoods is crucial, particularly in regions where livestock’s environmental impact is relatively low. 
  • Adopting a systems approach and considering multiple metrics of success are necessary for identifying which livestock systems to support and where changes are needed. 
Livestock’s Role in Africa: 
  • Livestock systems are multifunctional systems contributing significantly to soil fertility, agricultural productivity, and social exchange mechanisms in Africa. 
  • Animal source foods are critical for nutrition in Africa, addressing protein and micronutrient deficiencies. Reduction of animal source foods could lead to nutritional deprivation, negatively impacting approximately 800 million people.
Climate Change and Livestock in Africa: 
  • Africa’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is relatively low, but it faces disproportionate impacts from climate change. 
  • Using real data from African livestock systems is essential for informing low emission development practices. 
Considerations for Action: 
  • Reduction of animal products should target overconsumption, not just in industrial economies but also considering varying income levels and dietary patterns. 
  • Proposals to reduce animal source food production and consumption should consider differences between industrial and agrarian food systems. 
  • Pastoralist systems offer valuable socioeconomic and ecological knowledge, efficiently utilising lands unsuitable for crop production.
Challenges and Solutions: 
  • Pastoral and mixed crop systems should not be compared to fully industrialised systems in terms of yields or emissions, as they serve different purposes. 
  • Intercropping, a prevalent practice in smallholder societies, presents an opportunity for Europe to learn from African systems, offering benefits like biodiversity enhancement and biological pest control, with emerging interest in strip cropping farming for mainstream adoption. 
  • Industrialised and specialised livestock systems raise concerns about feed production’s impact on arable lands and natural ecosystems, potentially affecting food security. Balancing sustainable feed production and animal numbers is crucial, especially in intensive farming systems. 
  • Efforts should focus on modelling sustainable livestock reproduction and utilising residues for feed to minimise reliance on raw materials and prevent land extension. 
  • Exploring alternative foods like insects, seaweed, and fungi could provide essential nutrients with lower land use. 
  • Addressing distribution disparities is essential for effectively tackling nutritional deficits, as access to food is often determined by wealth disparities within populations.