Our livestock: Do they need to adapt to climate change?
Monday, 12 September 2011 17:21

How will climate change affect food security in the Pacific? SPC and other organisations in the region are working hard to provide further insights into the topic, and raise awareness about how to reduce adverse impacts on food security.


Research and studies on fisheries and crops are currently under way providing important information on potential impacts, possible adaptation options and priority areas for future work.

The livestock sector, however, has been under-represented on assessing the impacts of climate change on food security and prioritising adaptation options.

The Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region programme is working to fill this gap. An SPC/GIZ workshop held in Suva from 22–25 August brought together livestock officers from SPC, the Fiji and Vanuatu governments and the Fiji dairy sector.

Dr Ken Cokanasiga, Coordinator for the Animal Health and Production team at SPC, commented: ‘This workshop provided the first exposure of livestock sector specialists to climate change considerations. It is the first step in a process of building the resilience of our livestock sectors to climate change impacts, including developing climate change adaptation options, and planning appropriate adaptation and management strategies that can be included in national adaptation responses.’

Participatory sessions looked at important drivers of change in the livestock sector, important actors along the value chain, mapping risk and vulnerability, the key climate variables of importance for the livestock sector, and identification of adaptation options that could reduce vulnerability to those likely climatic changes.

Temperature increases were identified as a major concern for livestock production systems, reducing the productivity and reproduction capacity of the animals and lowering their immune system so they are more susceptible to disease. Ensuring adequate fresh water availability, which might also be affected by climate change, is also crucial to reducing heat stress.

Adaptation options identified include locating animal housing, ensuring it provides sufficient shade, ventilation, water availability and drainage. Local animal breeds kept by smallholder producers tend to be well adapted to their environments, and introducing more productive breeds into the breeding programme could assist with developing both productive and well adapted animals. However, care must be taken to ensure the original genetic stock is not threatened and resilient traits are conserved.

Many of these practices are not new and build on good animal husbandry techniques and traditional knowledge but their importance will increase in the face of future climate changes. ‘A lot of farmers are not aware that a lot of climate change activities will support going back to traditional livestock practices’ commented one participant.

Flooding and cyclones were also identified as major issues in terms of impacts on livestock shelters and infrastructure along the value chain, such as roads, trucks and marketplaces.

The workshop in Suva identified various adaptation research proposals and no-regrets adaptation options that can be taken forward over the coming months and years. A one-day workshop in Vanuatu on Monday September 5th focussed on some of the key messages emerging from the Suva workshop. The livestock and climate change expert facilitating the workshops, Dr Christine Jost and SPC’s Nichol Nonga also travelled to Pele island whilst in Vanuatu to provide advice and guidance on the livestock components of the current adaptation demonstration site.

Presentations and a report from the Suva workshop will be available on the SPC website shortly.

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