Mitigation in livestock and low emissions development pathways in East Africa

Photo: Felix Clay (Duckrabbit)

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 gaps and uncertainties in our knowledge - of 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 intends to increase women’s participation in and benefits from livestock value chains, thus reducing risks for women farmers associated with climate change.

Working with stakeholders at multiple levels, this project integrates 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 informs ongoing climate change policy processes in Kenya and Tanzania with evidence on livestock systems that have high potential to reduce emissions.

The project answers 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 provides 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 identifies 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 aims to support a reduction in greenhouse gas emission intensities of 25% in intensive livestock systems in the mixed highlands of East Africa by 2019.

Recent publications

Planned outputs

  • 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). Through ICRAF, the project also coordinates with UNIQUE Forestry and Land Use and Heifer International.

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

Further information

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