How Cattle Can Fight Climate Change

Author: Alexander Lykins | Published: January 12, 2017

In Nouakchott, a town on the edge of the Sahara in the North African country of Mauritania, lives a woman named Nancy Abeiderrahmane. In 1989 she founded an organization called Tvivski (PDF) (spring in Arabic) to connects local milk producers in Mauritania with the consumers.

Abeiderrahmane created Tiviski out of frustrations over having to rely on expensive powdered European milk. Today Tiviski provides affordable, locally produced milk to Mauritanians. For the thousands of families who produce milk, the dairy provides a livelihood.

In Richard Toll, a small Senegalese town rich with cattle, a veterinarian by the name of Bagoré Bathily had a similar dream. He founded La Laiterie du Berger, French for “the herder’s dairy.”

Despite Senegal’s having nearly 4 million herders, until 2006 almost all of the milk consumed in the country was imported, powdered milk from Europe. Now La Laiterie du Berger produces over 650,000 liters of milk a year, providing a stable income and food supply to nearly 7,000 people.

In Keffi, Nigeria, a dairy farm with a similar mission of improving development through local agriculture is even more impressive. Nagari Integrated Dairy farm was founded by Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, a former governor, in 1982. In contrast to the previous two farms, Nagari is reported to be one of the largest single integrated dairy farms in Africa, boasting over 37,000 cattle on nearly 3,000 acres. However, Nagari has a similar vision for their organization, in which indigenous ownership, equity and sustainability are key components.

All three dairies have improved food security in their local areas and created economic opportunities for thousands of citizens. All of these dairies cite sustainability within their supply chain as a priority, and all have taken steps to work towards and measure their goals. The good news is agricultural businesses such as these are increasing in sub-Saharan Africa, as locals become invested in combating food insecurity and international funds from companies such as Danone arrive to support these efforts.

These dairies have, however, a less obvious opportunity to take advantage of: the opportunity to help the planet. They have access to tens of thousands of acres of land. All that they need to implement true sustainability is to recognize that the secret to reversing the impact of climate change lies in the soil. A style of grazing, holistic management, uses grazing animals to repair soil health, increase carrying capacity, sequester carbon in the soil, increase its fertility and capacity to retain moisture.

All of these features can hold back deserts and roll back climate change.