Smart integration of animals and crops to survive climate change in Africa

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Biological Sciences


The aim of the cluster is to combine research on the impacts of climate change on crop and livestock systems to evaluate risks to smallholder systems as a whole, and to develop appropriate adaptation.
We focus on risks of failure of the crop or animal sides of the system, from adverse weather and pests (crop failure), or undernutrition and disease (livestock failure). Our premise is that a key component of household resilience to climate change is integration of crops and livestock, such that less affected components enable shocks to be overcome. This is well recognised in principle, yet research on effects of climate change have tended to focus either on specific components or on general social and economic resilience. By integrating scientific advances in prediction of specific climate risks, we will be better able to identify strategies that buffer risks to one component by utilising contrasting risk profiles in others. Moreover, we seek to tap into decision support systems for climate-smart agriculture that have arisen from underpinning GCRF projects but are directed at specific components, to build shared platforms for communication and capacity building around climate risks for strategic and real-time applications.

Planned Impact

Smallholder farming is crucial to the livelihoods of rural populations throughout Africa, but is experiencing many challenges. Climate change is making nutritional resources from grazing more unpredictable, and at the same time increasing threats from pests and parasites, for both livestock and crops. Investing in greater inputs to stave off these threats is out of the question for most subsistence farmers and is unsustainable. Better ways of running integrated animal-plant systems are urgently needed. To that end, this project seeks to build on successful previous work, in which targeted treatment of individual sheep and goats within a herd achieved substantial uplift in health and productivity with much lower input costs than standard whole-herd treatment. Further improvements to the system would be to replace chemicals with plants shown to reduce parasite burdens, which grow locally and could be cultivated or sustainably harvested.

Integration of livestock and crop production can increase resilience to climate change, but most projects have addressed one or other arm of the system. The Cluster proposes to cross that boundary at scientific, policy/NGO planning, and farm level, and hence achieve greater synergy between existing GCRF projects. As a result of this project, tools will be created for rapid evaluation of and adaptation to climate-related threats to smallholder farms throughout Africa, to support sustainable production and food security in the poorest areas. The tools will be evaluated in Malawi alongside existing projects, with a particular aim to evaluate how multi-channel (plant-animal health-production) information and decision support systems can be best designed and delivered to users at policy, advisor and farmer levels. This will enhance delivery and impact of the tools proposed in the current project, and also provide an evidence-based framework for combining advances in other areas and supporting effective uptake and application by farmers who are unable to reliably access bespoke professional advice.

The project directly addresses the UKRI Global Challenge Area "Equitable access to sustainable development", specifically by targeting its first sub-priority: secure and resilient food systems (see ODA compliance questionnaire). We showed in previous work that targeted selective treatment of parasites can be applied by resource-poor smallholder farmers; predicting risk would help them further by focusing monitoring and treatment, while nesting these predictions in a suite of predictive decision support tools covering other major climate-driven risks to smallholder farms would widen their utility. Because the parasite forecasts are the best developed in our hands, we will use them as a case study and an opportunity to explore and scope out decision support tool application for climate-smart farming, teaming up with the larger AFRICAP programme. Interventions in the current project would help to refine and apply local solutions that simultaneously improve better integration of plant and animal production on smallholder farms, and support household resilience to climate change. Outcomes will be improved production and flexibility to continue production under climate variation, impacting directly on rural livelihoods; the project seeks also to map those positive livelihood impacts.


10 25 50
Description Analysis of past GCRF investments show a wide range of disciplines but limited explicit within-project connections between animals and crops insofar as they support resilience under climate change; also limited incorporation of gender issues into livestock health projects. Surveys in Malawi indicate that a majority of goat owners are female and that goats are supportive of farmer livelihoods.
Exploitation Route This will help to guide future research that is well directed to support farmer livelihoods in LMIC. Health monitoring and targeted treatment approaches in goats are being incorporated into farmer field schools and their design has been modified as a result of the findings to include ecosystem analysis and plant-goat interactions.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description Findings on the positive livelihood impacts of goats, and therefore the disproportionate impact on female livelihoods and household food security, has been communicated to NGO partners and has stimulated co-design of accessible farmer field schools that add goat health to existing agricultural knowledge exchange programmes. These schools are at the advanced design stage for launch end March 2021 and will be evaluated in the next reporting period.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy
Description An adaptation of the GLOWORM-FL model to equine nematodes, for decision support outputs of this project. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact None to date, but will help to inform parasite control strategies for equine nematodes both as part of project outputs and by giving other researchers access to the model. 
Description HAU 
Organisation Harper Adams University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Inclusion in Cluster stage 2 bid.
Collaborator Contribution Adding agronomy and other expertise to Cluster stage 2 bid.
Impact None yet.
Start Year 2020
Description LUANAR 
Organisation Lilongwe University of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Country Malawi 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Supporting delivery of project outcomes and training and mentoring of LUANAR scientists.
Collaborator Contribution Involved in delivering project outcomes as co-investigating institution: included in project application.
Impact LUANAR are fundamentally involved in all aspect of the research project and its outcomes so far.
Start Year 2020
Description RRes 
Organisation Rothamsted Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Explained system for parasite management and potential for inclusion in existing nutrition and genetic research / translation projects in Africa.
Collaborator Contribution Adding thoughts on economic, social and nutritional evaluation of system impacts.
Impact Drafting of 2x funding bids for integrative research across the areas above.
Start Year 2018
Description SHA 
Organisation Gorta Self Help Africa
Country Ireland 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Development of training resources in goat health for SHA farmer field schools in Malawi.
Collaborator Contribution Inclusion of goat health monitoring and data collection in farmer field schools in support of cluster development.
Impact Integrated farmer field school design and supporting training and data capture resources, launched March 2021.
Start Year 2020
Description University of Pretoria 
Organisation University of Pretoria
Country South Africa 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Refined and applied methods devised by partner in resource-poor farm settings.
Collaborator Contribution Undertook trialling of methods and conversion to training materials used in the translation award.
Impact Engagement events under this project. Training of staff now working with farmers. Input into website design and training materials.
Start Year 2012
Description Cluster development meetings 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Recurring meetings of working group to develop cluster including analyses of held and new data and second stage bid. So far monthly meetings plus 1x full day workshop.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Recurring farm visits in Malawi for farmer and extension personnel training and support 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Participating farmers are visited every 2 weeks for data collection and reinforcement of training in animal health checks and targeted treatment. Teams involve postgraduate students. Includes workshops and additional training of animal health extension personnel, NGO farmer support networks, and on occasion visits with policy makers (government departments of agriculture, veterinary and extension services.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Recurring farmer training visits Botswana 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Repeated visits to farmers in Botswana every month to support ongoing data collection ad reinforce training. Teams include postgraduate students. Extends to demonstration and training of wider groups, through public meetings and farmer collectives, outside the core research areas in N and W Botswana. Accompanied on occasion by veterinary extension personnel, NGO staff involved in farmer extension, and policy makers from department of veterinary services. Includes training in parasitology and evaluation of anthelmintic drug efficacy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020