ETHIOPIA – The International Livestock Research Institution (ILRI) has launched the Enviro-Cow Project which aims to support the dairy sectors in Sub-Saharan Africa to cope with the impact of climate change and improve production.
The project is anticipated to be implemented in Addis Ababa and Oromia regions over a period of three years and will be funded by the Bills and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The main objective of this project is to increase production and productivity in the dairy sector through climate-friendly livestock farming practices in an effort to boost food security in the regions.
According to the project leader and professor of Quantitative Genetics at Scotland Rural college, Raphael Mrode, climate change affects the livelihoods of millions of smaller farmers in Ethiopia.
He highlighted that the project intends to support the Ethiopian government’s goals of promoting development in the dairy industry among other national aspirations to improve the livelihood of these farmers, eradicate poverty and increase resilience to climate change.
As climate change affects the availability of rain which in turn affects the availability of feed, the Enviro-Cow Project will develop potential mitigation and adaptation methods for the smallholder dairy cattle system.
ILRI will conduct research and gather data on the methane emissions produced by 700 cows from up to 80 dairy farms in Ethiopia and Tanzania for the first two years of the project.
The animals’ genetic constitution will be analysed as well as the composition of their milk to detect any chemical indicators that could be linked to methane production.
ILRI also intends to research and examine management strategies in terms of feed types used at the farm level and how that affects the amount of milk produced and how resource efficient they are.
During the launch ceremony of the project, the advisor to the State Minister of Agriculture, Alemayehu Mekonnen said that the government has also put in place policies that aim to improve the livestock sector.
According to ILRI, Ethiopia has one of the largest dairy cow populations in Africa at 10 million, with the annual milk production standing at 3 billion litres.
The rapidly increasing incomes have led to an increase in demand for dairy products which is not fulfilled by the domestic supply.
This resulted in a surge in milk prices and an increase in the importation of powdered milk.
ILRI, therefore, intends to help increase milk yields to meet local demand as well as improve the livelihoods of Ethiopia’s rural populations who largely depend on livestock farming.