On February 7, 2023, scientists who study the genetics of animals and livestock met at the International Livestock Research Institute to talk about a new project called “Enviro-cow.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funded the project, which is being implemented by the International Livestock Research Institute and led by Scotland’s Rural College. It was made to find workable ways for smallholder dairy cow systems to deal with and adapt to climate change, as well as to increase output, food security, and resilience to climate change.
It is a research project that aims to find ways to prevent climate change by looking at the methane emissions of about 700 cows from up to 80 dairy farms in Tanzania and Ethiopia. Laser methane detectors that were given to the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture during the session last week will be used to this effect.
The Minister of Agriculture, Alemayehu Mekonnen (PhD), talked about how the project could help reduce the amount of methane gas that cattle, especially milk-producing cows, give off, which plays a big role in climate change.
“The green legacy was the main strategy we worked on during this project,” Alemayehu said. “This means making sure the project leaves a green footprint while also working to improve livestock. Everyone knows that in the last three or four years, work in Ethiopia to create a green legacy has shocked the world.”
The Minister said that even though this is where there is the most livestock, which is how more than 80 percent of smallholder farmers make a living, it’s not all good news.
He says that the amount of methane gas emitted by all of these animals is one of the main causes of climate change and pollution. He claims that the best way to solve this problem is not to cut down on the number of animals but to change their diet and keep track of what they eat.
The project, according to him, showed that changing how these animals eat has led to a big drop in the amount of methane gas they put into the air.
Studies done in the US, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and many other places showed that cattle can release less methane gas than usual if they don’t just eat green grass. Instead, they can eat other types of food.
“What we hope to use in this project is to continue maintaining the feed change that has been shown to help reduce the methane gas release into the environment and monitor it with the help of the laser methane detectors,” the Minister explained.
This project will help keep the environment safe while managing the number of animals and resources, according to the Minister. It is currently being implemented in a few breeding stations, and they are waiting to see the results before they can continue to grow the work. Small farms in Oromia, SNNPR, and on the outskirts of Addis Ababa will be used for the project.
Raphael Mrode (Prof.), who works at the Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, Kenya, and is also a professor of qualitative genetics at Scotland’s Rural College and a researcher on the Enviro-cow project, discussed how important climate change is in Africa, even though the government isn’t paying much attention to it, because it contributes to the drought that affects many countries in Africa.
“Climate change can significantly affect the livelihood and food security of many smallholder farmers and people in Africa, so it is very important to find ways to mitigate and reduce the things that might affect it,” he said.
He says that the goal of the project is to give them the right genetics and feed for the cattle in order to make them more productive and increase the amount of meat and milk they produce, as well as reduce their methane emissions.
Because of this, they are able to improve the farmer’s way of life and income while also making the farm more productive.
The professor recommended starting in Ethiopia and Tanzania because Ethiopia has the largest number of cattle in Africa, followed by Tanzania. It is thought that it will be easier to bring the program to the rest of Africa if it works well in these countries first.
Mrode said that the program is expected to have a visible outcome at the two-year mark of the project, which has only begun its first phase. In the third year, they will be able to tell Ethiopian farmers about the results.
Enviro-cow will have found and given top-ranked dairy cows that can adapt to changing climates and are more likely to produce less methane through better feed utilization and herd management by the end of the project.