Livestock smallholders heading to their fields to plant forage saplings that the CRSP distributed in Gorusinghey, Kapilvastu, Nepal. Photo Credit: Sudarshan Rajbhandari.
As climate change suppresses agricultural productivity, population growth continues to climb, and food prices soar, feeding global populations will require food production to double by 2050. This is as over 1 billion people across the globe go hungry every night, and natural disasters and conflict increase instability in how we grow and access food. For a group of CVMBS researchers and colleagues, those numbers signify it is time to become proactive in how we approach food production for a more sustainable future.
Dr. Richard Bowen, professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences is the director of one of the nine Feed the Future Innovation Labs
– USAID funded collaborative research support programs addressing issues of hunger and poverty through science and technology. The Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change Lab
has been housed at Colorado State University since 2010, and supports integrated research that helps small-scale livestock holders adapt to environmental and health impacts of climate change in Africa and South Asia.
“Colorado State University is a leader in both livestock systems research and climate change resilience and adaptation in developing countries,” said Dr. Bowen. “One of the goals we have with USAID is to facilitate international collaborations, and I think there is a lot of recognition that CSU is in the international arena providing those opportunities.”
The $15 million, five-year Leader-with-Associate award from USAID has allowed support of research programs and scholars who are developing information and technologies to support policy and practices that increase the resilience of livestock systems in the face of climate change. Research goals are focused on enhancing the underlying connections between animal, human, and environmental health while also looking to effective solutions for feeding future populations.
Each research project is required to spend at least 50% of budget in country so much of the Lab’s focus is on hiring and training people in-country and fostering knowledge development from a bottom-up perspective. This includes both long-term research programs and graduate student fellowships.
“One initiative of our program that I’m excited about is support given to early career scholars in Nepal, Ethiopia and Kenya,” said Dr. Bowen. “People who already have a degree apply for a small research project, and we fund and mentor them with the goal that they become an productive part of the international research scene.”
The impacts of the effort have already been measurable. In addition to the more than 140 publications from research supported by the Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change Lab
that have broadened the global knowledge base about these issues, there are also many specific examples of how the research is making a difference.
“We’ve got one researcher who is a poultry expert that is doing something really innovative by helping to train grade school children on poultry diseases and management. He works with teachers in Tanzania and Nepal to develop teaching modules about poultry that the kids go home and teach to their families,” said Bowen. “One way to do development is to have one of the big NGOs go in and dictate practices to the village elders, but this bottom-up method based on educating children can be exceptionally effective and is expected to have long-lasting impacts on human nutrition.”
In the remaining two years of the grant, Bowen and the rest of the of Lab’s team – including co-director Dr. Shana Gillette, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences and Dr. Dana Hoag in the College of Agricultural Sciences – will grow the focus to include other important factors of food production in the developing world including gender issues, nutrition, and small-scale farming at the household level. To learn more about the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research for Adapting Livestock Systems to Climate Change visit http://lcccrsp.org.