The Lancet Countdown tracks progress on health and climate change and provides an independent assessment of the health effects of climate change, the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the health implications of these actions. The research evidence thus generated will help to inform decision-making and drive an accelerated policy response to climate change.

The initiative is a collaboration between 24 academic institutions and intergovernmental organizations based in every continent and with representation from a wide range of disciplines including climate scientists, ecologists, economists, social and political scientists, public health professionals and doctors.

The Lancet Countdown’s 2017 report tracks 40 indicators across five areas, arriving at three key conclusions:

  • The human symptoms of climate change are unequivocal and potentially irreversible.
  • The delayed response to climate change over the past 25 years has jeopardised human life and livelihoods.
  • The past 5 years have seen an accelerated response, and in 2017 momentum is building across several sectors.

Visit the Lancet Countdown website for a thematic breakdown of the report. The full text of the Lancet Countdown 2017 report is available for free via The Lancet website.

Among the report’s co-authors are Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and co-leader of the Animal and Human Health program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and Paula Dominguez-Salas, postdoctoral researcher in nutrition at the Royal Veterinary College on joint appointment at ILRI.

A new international, multidisciplinary research initiative, the Lancet Countdown, was launched yesterday (14 Nov 2016) to track and analyse the impacts of climate change on public health.

The initiative will generate new research evidence to inform decision-making and drive an accelerated policy response to climate change. It will publish its findings annually in The Lancet, the leading global medical journal.

The Lancet Countdown is a collaboration of 48 leading experts from around the world, drawn from 16 academic and research institutions including the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Tsinghua University (China), University College London and the World Health Organization. It is funded by the Wellcome Trust.

You can download the inaugural report, The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change, for free via The Lancet website.

Among the report’s co-authors are Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and leader of ILRI’s Food Safety and Zoonoses program, and Paula Dominguez-Salas, postdoctoral researcher in nutrition at the Royal Veterinary College on joint appointment at ILRI.

In a new paper published on 23 June 2015, the 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change says that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of this century, and puts forward 10 recommendations for governments to take action in the next 5 years.

ILRI news


Marble figurine of a woman, from the Cyclades, Aegean Sea, early Bronze Age, about 2600-2400 BC (via the British Museum).

The 2015 Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change was formed to map out the impacts of climate change and the necessary policy responses. The central finding from the Commission’s work is that tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century. See a summary of the key messages of the paper, published this week in The Lancet (22 Jun 2015)—Health and climate change: Policy responses to protect public health.

One of the authors of the paper is ILRI veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). Another is her colleague Victor Galaz, professor of politics at the Stockholm Resilience Centre

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Livestock graze on an island in the Niger

Livestock grazing on an island in the River Niger, as seen off a bridge in Niger’s capital, Niamey (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

The livestock sector contributes significantly to the global economy and to rural livelihoods. Globally, approximately one billion smallholder farmers keep livestock. However, the burden of animal disease in developing countries is high; livestock disease kills 20% of ruminants and over 50% of poultry each year, causing annual losses of approximately USD 300 billion.

A new report on climate and livestock disease by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) shows that climate change can increase the burden of livestock diseases, and some diseases like Rift Valley fever and trypanosomosis are especially sensitive to climate change.

Climate change may also have indirect effects on animal diseases, for example, higher temperatures and greater humidity can lead to faster development of disease-causing parasites and pathogens.

In order to address climate impacts on the livestock sector, the authors make the following recommendations for policymakers:

  • Invest in ‘no regret’ adaptation responses. Many adaptation responses based on improving the control of climate-sensitive livestock diseases are ‘no regret’ options, which, by reducing the burden of livestock disease, will enhance community resilience, alleviate poverty and address global inequity irrespective of climate change.
  • Improve disease surveillance and response in order to detect changes in disease in a timely way, thus dramatically reducing the costs of response. This requires investment and innovation in disease reporting systems as well as laboratories capable of confirming diseases. Risk-based and participatory surveillance are promising options for improving disease reporting.
  • Increase the capacity to forecast near term occurrence of climate-sensitive diseases, and to predict longer-term distribution of diseases through better epidemiological information and ground-truthed models.
  • Improve animal health service delivery by investing in the public sector and supporting innovations in the private sector such as community animal health workers linked to private veterinarians. Promote One Health and ecohealth approaches to disease control, especially in vulnerable communities with high reliance on livestock (for example, pastoralists in East Africa).
  • Support the eradication of priority diseases where this is economically justified. Develop diagnostics and vaccines, and promote adoption of good practices and strengthened biosecurity to improve disease control.
  • Increase the resilience of livestock systems by supporting diversification of livestock and livelihoods, and integrating livestock farming with agriculture. Consider promotion of species and breeds that are more resistant to disease and climate change.
  • Adopt breeding strategies focused on identifying and improving breeds that are better adapted to climate change impacts and disease.
  • Understand the potential land use changes in response to climate change and monitor their impacts on animal disease to allow preventive or remedial actions.

The report was submitted to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ahead of a special workshop on agriculture at the 42nd session of the SBSTA held on 1-11 June 2015 in Bonn, Germany.

An information note, Impact of climate change on African agriculture: focus on pests and diseases, gives a summary of the submission.

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Health and Nutrition (A4NH) supported the preparation of the report.

Grace D, Bett B, Lindahl J and Robinson T. 2015. Climate and livestock disease: assessing the vulnerability of agricultural systems to livestock pests under climate change scenarios. CCAFS Working Paper No. 116. Copenhagen, Denmark: CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming in western Kenya

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming in western Kenya. Mixed crop-livestock farming systems currently produce most of the world’s meat, milk and staple crops (photo credit: ILRI/Pye-Smith).

The January 2013 issue of Animal Frontiers, the world’s premier review magazine in animal agriculture, features a series of articles on the contribution of animal agriculture to global food security.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has contributed to this series with a position paper that highlights the direct and indirect effects of livestock on food and nutrition security. The paper also considers the future prospects of mixed crop-livestock farming systems that produce most of the world’s milk, meat and staple crops.

The paper by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith and colleagues begins with a brief overview of the global challenge of food and nutrition security and the net impact of livestock on global food supply. This is followed by a review of the direct contributions of livestock to nutrition security and the indirect effects of livestock on food security.

Food security is said to exist when “all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. In development discourse, the term ‘food security’ is often used to emphasize the aspect of food quantity while ‘nutrition security’ captures the quality dimension.

The position paper offers a balanced analysis by exploring both the beneficial impacts (e.g. improved nutrition and health, income from the sale of animals or produce, draught power and provision of manure) and the harmful ones (e.g. zoonotic diseases, health risks from over-consumption of animal-source foods and production of greenhouse gases).

“Livestock contribute to food supply by converting low-value materials, inedible or unpalatable for people, into milk, meat, and eggs; livestock also decrease food supply by competing with people for food, especially grains fed to pigs and poultry. Currently, livestock supply 13% of energy to the world’s diet but consume one-half the world’s production of grains to do so.

However, livestock directly contribute to nutrition security. Milk, meat and eggs, the “animal-source foods,” though expensive sources of energy, are one of the best sources of high quality protein and micronutrients that are essential for normal development and good health. But poor people tend to sell rather than consume the animal-source foods that they produce.

The contribution of livestock to food, distinguished from nutrition security among the poor, is mostly indirect: sales of animals or produce, demand for which is rapidly growing, can provide cash for the purchase of staple foods, and provision of manure, draft power, and income for purchase of farm inputs can boost sustainable crop production in mixed crop-livestock systems.

Livestock have the potential to be transformative: by enhancing food and nutrition security, and providing income to pay for education and other needs, livestock can enable poor children to develop into healthy, well-educated, productive adults. The challenge is how to manage complex trade-offs to enable livestock’s positive impacts to be realized while minimizing and mitigating negative ones, including threats to the health of people and the environment.”

On the future role of mixed crop-livestock farming systems, the authors note that it is important to look into issues related to production efficiency as well as market engagement in defining how these systems are to evolve in order to remain competitive, equitable and environmentally stable while continuing to contribute to human nutrition and health.

The paper concludes:

“Many poor livestock keepers report that a key motivation for keeping livestock is to earn income so their children can attend school and, perhaps, go on to benefit from further education. By providing essential nutrients, especially in the first critical 1,000 days from conception, animal-source foods can help ensure normal physical and cognitive development.

The combined impacts of meeting nutritional needs and providing income make livestock a powerful force for the poor. Well-nourished and well-educated youngsters can grow up to be healthy young adults who are able to realize their full potential and earn higher incomes, in the process enhancing the well-being of their families, communities, and society. The impact of this on food and nutrition security at household, national, and global levels cannot be overstated and demands innovative research, development, and policy approaches.”

Read the full article here

Citation: Smith J, Sones K, Grace D, MacMillan S, Tarawali S and Herrero M. 2013. Beyond milk, meat, and eggs: Role of livestock in food and nutrition security. Animal Frontiers 3(1): 6-13.