Project description

Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production systems are the largest source of agricultural emissions in East Africa – and the fastest growing. The livestock sector thus represents the best opportunity for mitigation in the region. But there are gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge, including emission rates in different smallholder systems; mitigation opportunities related to practices, breeds, etc.; which policy or economic incentives to change production methods will best support smallholder livelihoods and climate change mitigation; and how institutions can support the transition toward low emissions development in livestock production. 

Recognizing that social contexts and structural and normative conditions affect opportunities for increasing gender equality in the livestock value chain in East Africa, this project aimed to ensure outcomes for both men and women farmers. Specifcially, to increase women’s participation in and benefits from livestock value chains, thus reducing risks for women farmers associated with climate change. In 2017, the project published reports and worked with local implementing organisations (e.g. the Ministry of Livestock in Kenya, the Kenya Biogas Program, SNV, and the IFAD Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Project ) to use research outputs to increase gender-inclusiveness in LED strategies. Gender analysis increased in Tanzania in 2018.

Working with stakeholders at multiple levels, this project integrated social and biophysical research - including surveys, ethnography, spatial and mechanistic modeling, and targeted GHG measurements - to identify opportunities to improve and promote low emissions development in the livestock sector.  The project informed ongoing climate change policy processes in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania with evidence on livestock systems that have high potential to reduce emissions.

The project answered four research questions:

  1. Where are livestock systems with high mitigation potential?    
  2. How accurate is current information on emissions and spatial data for the identified livestock systems?
  3. What are the incentives, institutional environments and investments needed for smallholders to adopt climate-smart livestock practices and do they differ by geography (landscape), livelihood and gender?   
  4. What are the best strategies for engaging research users and value chain actors to implement low emission development pathways?

This project provided national policymakers, national and international donors, and the private sector with the decision-support tools they need to guide investment in low emissions development pathways for livestock systems. The decision-support tools are based on the best scientific evidence available about mitigation potentials, institutional incentives, and tradeoffs/synergies between mitigation and development goals. The project also identified system-specific pathways for increasing uptake and scaling of low emissions practices – such as improving animal feeding, health and reproduction – in collaboration with the East Africa Dairy Development project (EADD) and other public and private sector efforts.  

By supporting scaling up of low emissions livestock pathways, this research aimed to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emission intensities of 25% in intensive livestock systems in the mixed highlands of East Africa by 2019.

In 2017, the project submitted two journal articles on new emission factors for manure and ruminants and presented the new emission factors to the State Department of Livestock. The findings highlighted the differences between Tier 1 and Tier 2 calculations. For example, the data from Nyando County  (Goopy et al. 2017 Animal Production Systems)  were up to 40% lower than IPCC Tier 1 factors, but emission factors from Nandi County were higher in some cases. These findings show the importance of gathering and analyzing sufficient field data.


Research activities and results from this project are informing the "Bottom-up planning for social equity in climate-smart livestock interventions in East Africa" project beginning in 2019. Publications can be found in the column on the right. Additional publications are below.


  • Improved emissions estimates for livestock systems across East Africa.
  • Assessment of adoption potential of climate-smart livestock technologies.
  • Spatially explicit mapping of promising mitigation options for farmers and socio-economic co-benefits to support policy making and implementation of low emissions agriculture, including national adaptation plans (NAPs) and nationally appropriate mitigation actions (NAMAs).
  • Production of system-specific recommendations for climate-smart feeding, manure and herd management practices for farmers and extension services.
  • Communication methods for optimal and efficient engagement with research users (NGO’s, policy advisors and politicians). Targeted messages and engagement processes will address the different needs of planners and implementers, and line ministries and development actors. Joint platforms to bring the different audiences together will facilitate integration.


This project is led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and is a collaboration with Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

This project is part of the CCAFS SAMPLES program. Climate, Food and Farming Network (CLIFF) students are - and have been - building capacity in greenhouse gas quantification by contributing research in this project.

Further information

For more information please contact the project leader, Polly Ericksen (ILRI) at