Livestock is crucial to Ethiopia’s economic growth, in fact dairy alone contributes 14 to 16 percent of the GDP. Moreover, 11.4 million Ethiopian households produce livestock, most of which are cattle, and almost all of which are smallholder farmers (80 percent of the country relies on agriculture to survive). Despite this, the demand for milk in Ethiopia is still being met through imports: from 2011 to 2013, Ethiopia spent $11 to $15 million in foreign exchange on importing milk products.
With the help of CCAC, Ethiopia is determining the most effective interventions to reduce emissions intensity in the livestock sector while increasing output. As is the case in Bangladesh, the most important of these strategies is improving feed, which farmers typically don’t have enough of and is usually made up of crop residue or crops with poor nutritional quality.
The research CCAC supported found that if the country uses a combination of interventions it can reduce enteric methane emissions by 10 percent while increasing milk production by 170 percent.
Pierre Gerber, Senior Livestock Specialist at the World Bank, says that these two projects are particularly exciting because they’re helping integrate changes across government ministries.
“In the design and the objectives of these projects, the two countries are really embedding mitigation objectives in their livestock development strategies at the level of the ministries of livestock but also involving the Ministry of the Environment,” he said.
He adds that the projects will help each country submit extremely detailed emissions inventories to the UNFCCC that accurately capture the effects of their intervention strategies.
Furthermore, having this detailed information could help countries access climate finance, with some private sector investors potentially offering compensation for reduced emissions intensity.
The Bio-Carbon Fund managed by the World Bank, for example, is evaluating the possibility to incentivize emissions intensity reductions in the livestock sector, under certain circumstances.
Emissions intensity shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to mitigating the overall emissions of the livestock sector but as a complementary strategy, says Gerber. He says that we shouldn’t lose sight of alternate strategies that can help lower the sector’s overall emissions in the long term, such as increasing the use of plant protein or sequestering carbon through practices like afforestation.
“It can only be an entry point, it can’t be an end point,” adds Reisinger.
As an entry point, however, it’s an important one— and one that can contribute to building a healthy planet without sacrificing the needs of farmers and developing country economies.
“It's a development agenda. It's about putting people’s livelihoods and farmers’ well-being first,” said Katie Ross of the World Resources Institute. “Improving emissions intensity is good from an economic standpoint because farmers get more money and it’s good from a climate standpoint because the techniques reduce methane emissions per unit of output.”