Livestock and livestock products play an important role in the food, nutritional and income security of rural households in the developing world. However, climate change poses significant threats to the livelihoods of livestock keepers, affecting them in various ways including reduced productivity and increased costs of production.
To address the needs and interests of smallholders, part of the research at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) focuses on addressing challenges posed by climate change. The research carried out within ILRI’s Mazingira Centre – an environmental research and educational facility – aims at providing accurate context-specific information on the environmental impacts of current livestock production systems. A particular focus is given to productivity, nutrient cycles and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The objective is to enable predictions of intensification in these systems, and opportunities to mitigate GHG emissions.
The Mazingira Centre further focuses on capacity development, to mentor future environmental and agricultural production scientists as well as training of local technicians. Some of the main challenges in the area of GHG emissions in Africa include lack of accurate data and lack of a critical mass of scientists with the capacity to conduct such experiments and deduce justifiable conclusions.
On 20 to 24 June 2016, the centre hosted three high school students from Braeburn High School, Nairobi, to provide them with an exposure on what ‘understanding and managing the environmental footprint of livestock’ entails.
The students spent the week interacting with the technicians, undergraduate and graduate students as well as scientists from the Mazingira Centre, observing what their typical work involves. They also had the opportunity to get a practical experience on how the Centre’s state-of-the-art equipment are used to measure GHG emission from different sources including soil, manure and livestock.
We used state of the art equipment and worked with PhD students as well as experienced scientists throughout our visit which helped us familiarize ourselves with scientific thought processes. We participated in a wide variety of activities from cleaning cows to operating infra-red spectroscopy technology to sampling cow manure. Said the students
At the end of the week the students, whose interest in the centre was cultivated from an earlier day trip to the centre, expressed their appreciation at the experience. The students are just stepping out of high school and looking to acquire university education. They stated that while at the beginning they had mixed feelings about this kind of research and were uncertain about its relevance, their week-long stay at the Mazingira Centre and interaction with the cutting edge facilities erased their doubts.
Below are a few quotes from the students:
It was a fantastic experience working with leading researchers David Pelster and Lutz Merbold who were very open and gave insights into life as a scientist.
Overall, it was an amazing experience and we left better informed about climate change and as a result we’re better rounded in our knowledge of the greenhouse effect and we will like to strongly recommend this experience to anyone who would like to become a better scientist.
We would like to thank everyone in ILRI and look forward to coming again.