Following the rapid increasing demand for animal source foods propelling livestock production, particularly in many less developed countries where the pressure on natural resources is mounting, the need for a pragmatic tool to assess environmental impacts is greater than ever.
Earlier this year the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) funded an 18-month project called ‘Comprehensive Livestock Environment Assessment for Improved Nutrition, a Secured Environment and Sustainable Development along Livestock Value Chains.’ Known as CLEANED LVCs, the project is taking stock of existing environmental assessment methods and aims to formulate a new comprehensive framework. The outcome should be an approach that is applicable for rapid environmental assessment of existing, or planned, livestock production.
To take forward an East Africa dairying ‘proof of concept’, stakeholders from Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania recently met in Nairobi to anchor the development of the framework within regional realities.
Proceedings started with presentations on dairy production and environmental challenges and issues. After these ‘scene-setting’ presentations, participants discussed two questions:
- What are the most prominent challenges for dairy production in your country for each step of the production chain? And what are the related environmental issues to the different production-chain steps?
- List the three most important environmental issues and their associated impacts, indicators and methods, for each stage in the production chain.
They also thought about the proposed framework, considering if they had a ‘magic environmental assessment tool’ what it might look like:
- One group, taking more ‘expert’ perspectives, thought the tool should have the following features: Cover multiple scales (local to regional); incorporate a baseline user survey; cover many different variables, be both sustainable and commercially viable; be based on limited baseline data collection; be open source for wide use and access; be able to use existing data; accommodate different users/parameters as well as different interventions (feeds/markets/policies); be simple to train and use; produce visual outputs; contain some expert knowledge.
- The second group took on more ‘farmer’ perspectives. They felt the new tool should help farmers become aware of and believe in benefits derived from use of the tool; it should help farmers understand the environmental impacts of their farming practices; costs and benefits should be expressed over the longer and shorter terms; it should address the difference among farmers; it can be used by individuals or by groups of farmers and be able to generate understanding beyond farms; it needs to be wider than just environmental; and it needs to be adapted for different farming systems.
In discussing the potential new tool or framework, the two groups had somewhat different discussions. One tended to focus more on challenges and the other on desired results. Both groups highlighted that the framework must consider multiple scales and variables. Also that it has to be informative, easily comprehended and deliver very clear, visible results. The first group brought up the issue of data requirements, and that the framework has to be easy to operate, and be too time or data intensive. The second group emphasized that the tool needs to benefit farmers. The farmer benefits must be clear if the framework is to be effective at all.
See the presentations:
- Introducing the CLEANED project ex-ante impact assessment framework
- Climate and efficiency gains in dairy systems: Pilot project
- Farmers’ uptake of improved feed practices and reasons for adoption/ non adoption
- Dairy/livestock and the environment in Tanzania
- Challenges in assessing impacts in dairy farming and dairy processing
- Overview of the Tanzanian dairy industry challenges and opportunities
- Links of the Biodigester sector with the dairy sector and environment
- Dairy production and related environmental issues in Tanzania
From 22-23 October, an expert consultation in Stockholm will validate the framework within the wider scientific community.
The project is implemented by ILRI, the Stockholm Environmental Institute (SEI) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).