Cattle call on climate change: East Africa faces a stark reality of higher temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Photo by Dana Hoag.
In East Africa, pundits aren’t debating whether climate change is real. Temperature has already increased and precipitation has decreased in some parts of the region, where many people depend heavily on rain-fed agriculture for survival. Even slight variability in climate affects rural livelihoods in dry areas of Ethiopia and Kenya, in densely populated communities already faced with widespread poverty and limited supplies of food, water and livestock forage.
A new project is looking at the issue of climate change in East Africa from the hooves up. Known as CHAINS, the project is focused on how climate variability, animal diseases, natural resource management and land use are influencing livestock commodity chains in semi-arid and arid regions of Ethiopia and Kenya.
While previous research has focused on brokers, traders and export firms that are higher up in the economic chain, the new project is looking at the pastoralists who are actually producing the livestock that support these systems, says Emory anthropologist Peter Little.
Maasai people in Kenya rely heavily on cattle for their livelihoods. Photo by Dana Hoag.
“It seems likely that uncertainty over extreme climatic events, especially their frequency and intensity, and their effects on human and animal welfare, markets, animal disease and conflict will continue in the region and even worsen during the next decade and beyond,” Little says.
Emory researchers will work with scientists from Pwani University College in Kenya, Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and the International Livestock Research Institute. They will interview pastoralists and others involved in the livestock chain, from production to final sale. The aim is to collect information to help communities manage risks and improve their livelihoods amid the forces of climate change.
The first CHAINS site centers on northeastern Kenya, where disease and drought are exacerbating land-use conflicts and disrupting cattle movements and trade. The second site is located in the Boran plateau of southern Ethiopia, where it is unclear if small-scale producers of goats, cattle and camels are benefiting from a growing export trade. In addition, large-scale commercial farming operations, drought and disputes over territorial boundaries and wells are undermining indigenous pastoral systems.
CHAINS builds on previous work that Little and his collaborators have done in East Africa on livestock markets and climate change adaptation. Other researchers in the project include Steve Stahl from the International Livestock Research Institute; Workneh Negatu from Addis Ababa Univeristy; Hussein Mahmoud from Pwani University College; Andy Catley from Tufts University; Polly Ericksen from the Livestock Research Institute; and Uriel Kitron and Carla Roncoli, both with Emory.
CHAINS is funded through the Livestock-Climate Change Collaborative Research Program, established through a U.S. AID grant to Colorado State University’s Animal Population Health Institute and the university’s Institute for Livestock and the Environment.
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