SEI Contact:

Jon Ensor

Telephone: +44 1904 324817

Time-frame: 2016–2020

Project status: Active

ResLeSS - Research and Learning for Sustainable Intensification of Smallholder Livestock Value Chains in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia and Tanzania

Cowherders in Burkina Faso. Photo credit: CIFOR via Flickr in Burkina Faso. Photo credit: CIFOR via Flickr

This project aims to integrate environmental, economic and equity considerations into decision making around livestock intensification.

To achieve this, we take an innovative step forward in the use of analytical tools for the management of environmental and livelihood change in developing country contexts. The CLEANED tool provides a rapid assessment of livestock production system changes in a data poor environments undergoing fast change. The assessment is in terms of water, land/soil, biodiversity and GHG emissions, and is undertaken at the landscape scale, using modeling to generate maps showing the distribution of environmental change.

In this project we will explore, through an action research methodology, how CLEANED can be used to secure equity and inclusion in decision making around agricultural intensification. CLEANED will be rolled out in case studies locations in three countries (Burkino Faso, Ethiopia and Tanzania), embedded within a participatory ‘social learning’ process, which is designed to engage all stakeholders. This includes policy makers and those who are frequently marginalized from decision making, such as smallholder farmers and women. As an action-research project, learning will be developed alongside stakeholders who are engaged in assessing alternative intensification scenarios.

This research project addresses three fundamental characteristics of smallholder livestock production that need to be considered to ensure an inclusive and sustainable intensification process:

  1. Natural resource use and environmental impacts of livestock production at a landscape scale. Feeds can be cultivated at multiple sites across the landscape and transported considerable distances to where the animals are kept. This is not only true for concentrates including crops like maize or soy, but also for crop residues, hay or other roughage feeds. In addition, often the livestock itself is moving across the landscape to graze and browse. This makes it necessary to address environmental dimensions at landscape scale.
  2. Smallholder livestock rearing generates multiple benefits. Classic cost-benefit analyses might not capture all the benefits generated. We will apply a participatory approach that allows the smallholders (and other stakeholders) to define relevant economic indicators. In this way, we will be able to assess the “real” benefits of intensification scenarios from multiple perspectives, including that of smallholder livestock keepers.
  3. Inclusive decision making. To achieve sustainable intensification of agricultural production will require trade-offs that consider the balance between production and environmental impact. In a developing country setting there is major risk of exclusion of marginal smallholders in such a process. Applying a participatory and inclusive ‘social learning’ decision process will ensure that these marginalised groups have their interests represented.


Livestock production systems in developing countries are undergoing very rapid development. Sustained participation in development decisions regarding equitable, long term production rest upon a continued and inclusive learning and adaptive process. To support this, we will operationalize our project through an environmental and production trade-off ‘learning space’ in each case study country that can be continued beyond the life of the project.