Reducing the Climate Impact of Livestock Production in East Africa CLOSED



Prof. Mariana C. Rufino (Lancaster University, UK)

Dr George Schoneveld (Centre for International Forestry Research, Kenya)


Why is this project interesting?


Livestock production generates income and is an important source of nutrition for many farmers in East Africa. Dairy is currently a booming sector, dominated by small-scale producers. Rising demand for animal products, especially those derived from milk, are increasingly driven by economic growth, and changing consumption patterns, generating new opportunities for farmers. In spite of these opportunities, increasing dairy production without concomitant gains in productivity threaten to further increase the large environmental footprint of the sector. Livestock production systems are currently one of the main contributors to GHG emissions from land use.

Low emissions development (LED) plans under development in many countries following the ratification of the Paris Climate Agreement therefore have to explore avenues for reconciling climate change mitigation and adaptation with food security and economic priorities. There are a number of constraints that prevent livestock producers from adopting best practices and in turn generating benefits from mitigating GHG emissions. These include lack of land, labour, knowledge or capital to invest in upgrading their production practices. Moreover, the intensification of livestock production can produce serious environmental risks, not only associated with the direct effects of increased GHG emissions, but also with the conversion of natural ecosystems (e.g. native forests and wetlands), and compromising the integrity of ecosystem services such as biodiversity conservation and water provisioning. Some intervention options have the potential to promote sustainable intensification while also deliver a range of socio-economic benefits, thereby enabling poor land users capturing gains from global climate change mitigation commitments and increased availability of climate finance. Improved use of forest resources and management of grasslands are options that can be considered both ‘climate-smart’ and amenable to improving livestock productivity. However, the threat of carbon leakage, resulting for example from the development of commercial input industries and indirect land use change could undermine the net GHG emission contribution from the uptake of climate-smart agricultural practices.


This PhD project will analyse the contribution of best practices for achieving increased production and mitigation of GHG emissions from the livestock sector, and will investigate options for climate-smart management of landscapes.

Specifically, the project will address the following aims:

  1. Estimate the contribution of livestock to low emissions development (LED) with improved production practices in the Kenyan and Tanzanian dairy sector.
  2. Identify technical constraints and incentives to implement best practices using models and scenarios.
  3. Analyse the potential to link the livestock and forest sectors to achieve net mitigation gains.
  4. Undertake economic valuations to identify the viability of various (incentive-based) intervention options.


What’s in it for you?

Become an expert in climate change mitigation. You will conduct applied research producing robust scientific evidence urgently needed to support climate-change policies. You will develop a solid theoretical grounding of interacting factors, and will apply that knowledge into dynamic biophysical models. You will collect biophysical data that describes landscapes and agricultural production systems in the tropics, and learn how to analyze, interpret, publish and communicate your research to broad audiences. You will become networked with some leading scientists in this discipline, and have the opportunity to interact with policy makers at different levels. You will be exposed to and learn from expertise in economics and other social sciences. You will be well-placed to enter the job market at the end of your studies. You will join an exciting research environment. You will benefit from the research training programmes offered by the Faculty of Science and Technology at Lancaster University, by being part of the large and vibrant multidisciplinary Lancaster Environment Centre, and by becoming a part of the active tropical environmental research conducted at the Centre. You will conduct field work in East Africa, and learn from your supervisor based at the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), and the scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).


Who should apply? 

We are seeking applications from graduates with a good BSc or Master’s degree. You should have a strong background in the Biological, Agricultural or Environmental Sciences. You must have demonstrable potential for creative, high-quality PhD research. Ability to link theory to practical work, and statistical knowledge will be important. Knowledge of R and GIS are required. Relevant research experience will be beneficial.


The small print

Studentship funding: Full studentship (tuition fees and stipend (£14,296 [tax free]) for 3.5 years.

Academic Requirements: First-class or 2.1 (Hons) degree, or Masters degree (or equivalent) in Agricultural or Environmental Sciences.

Deadline for applications: Midnight CET 30 October 2016

Provisional Interview Date: First week of November.

Start Date: as soon as possible

For further information or informal discussion about the position, please send your CV and an email to Prof Mariana Rufino (

Application process: Please upload a completed application form (download here) outlining your background and suitability for this project and a CV at LEC Postgraduate Research Applications, here.

You also require two references, please send the reference form (download here) to your two referees and ask them to email it to Andy Harrod (, Postgraduate Research (PGR) Co-ordinator, Lancaster Environment Centre by the deadline.

Due to the limited time between the closing date and the interview date, it is essential that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.


Further reading

Website of the project.

Roman-Cuesta, RM, MC Rufino, et al. 2016 Hotspots of tropical land use emissions: patterns, uncertainties, and leading emission sources for the period 2000-2005. Biogeosciences 13 (14), 4253-4269

Brandt, P, M Kvakić, K Butterbach-Bahl, MC Rufino 2016 How to target climate-smart agriculture? Concept and application of the consensus-driven decision-making framework “targetCSA”. Agric Syst, DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2015.12.011

Carter, S, M Herold, MC Rufino, K Neumann, L Kooistra, L Verchot 2015 Mitigation of agriculture emissions in the tropics: comparing forest land-sparing options at the national level Biogeosciences 12: 4809–4825


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