United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Climate-smart livestock for food security and better livelihoods

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) (
United Nations / Multilateral body

    In Ecuador, cattle farming plays a significant role on food security and GDP contribution. Most of the 5 million hectares of pastures are underutilized and managed by small and medium-sized producers whose meat and milk productivity is rather low. Due to inadequate management practices, beef and dairy cattle has been associated with land degradation, deforestation, and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of product. The project aimed to improve productivity while contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation by implementing a climate-smart livestock (CSL) approach in seven provinces of the country.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    The project was implemented with USD 3.8 million from the GEF Trust Fund and the GEF Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and USD 18 million in in-kind and grant co-financing from the Government of Ecuador, private sector partnerships, livestock farmers, and universities. Through rural participatory appraisal workshops, the project designed capacity-building strategies that addressed the main needs and prioritized the best-suited solutions for the local context to implement 75 practices, divided into 12 categories (e.g. food and nutrition, animal health and welfare, conservation and restoration, management to reduce conflict with wildlife). Institutionally, the CSL approach was mainstreamed into climate change mitigation and adaptation policies in the livestock sector and into land use and development plans and commitments to multilateral environmental agreements. To monitor the reduction in GHG emissions and calculate adaptive capacity, the project developed two web-based tools that (1) quantifies GHG emissions at farm level and predicts overall emissions and emission intensity from beef and dairy production systems, and (2) calculates and predicts climate risk and adaptation capacity at farm level. Both tools are in the process of being launched in a mobile application developed by the private company Telefónica, which will enable them to be used on a larger scale. The project also developed partnerships with BanEcuador, the main development bank of Ecuador, to extend green credit lines to finance producers implementing climate-smart livestock practices, as well as a private sector partnership with El Ordeño, a private company and dairy producer, to train its milk-producing members in climate-smart livestock techniques.


    Climate-smart livestock practices were adopted over 40 388 hectares, contributing to the reduction of 75 271 tCO2eq of direct GHG emissions and the direct sequestration of 506 848 tCO2 in pastures. A total of 1 056 producers participating in the project increased their adaptive capacity by over 10% while increasing their incomes by an average of over 15% and reporting improvements in milk quality. In its pilot phase, the BanEcuador green credit line mobilized around USD 934 871 for producers to implement climate-smart livestock practices. The climate-smart livestock approach was incorporated into the Land-use and Development Plans of six provinces and into Ecuador’s Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement as a line of action for the agricultural sector. The Project also developed a proposal for a Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action and a Climate Smart Livestock Management Strategy by 2030.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    The capacity-building strategy had an integrated approach that covered the individual dimension of the stakeholders, the organizational dimension focused on institutions, and the enabling environment (e.g. stakeholder commitment, governance and power structures, incentives and norms). This approach recognizes that individual changes affect the changes at organizational and environmental levels. The involvement of different stakeholders created an enabling environment to establish alliances and promote the active participation of the producers, from the definition of the problem to the search for community solutions.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The green credit line for climate-smart livestock remains operational, and the bank is negotiating with the international development bank to obtain resources to enable the green credit line to remain open with the same credit conditions or lower interest rates. In addition, seven credit and savings community schemes were established to ensure the sustainability of the CSL practices, and USD 25 200 was raised by the producers themselves. Online tools to monitor the GHG emissions and adaptation capacities are in the process of being launched in a mobile application developed by private company Telefónica, which will enable them to be used on a larger scale across Ecuador. To scale out the project beyond Ecuador, lessons, experiences and tools were documented and disseminated online, and the project has shared knowledge with other teams and projects in Colombia, Uruguay, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, as well as in Asia.

    COVID-19 Impact

    The economic crisis in Ecuador in the past 2 years dovetailed with the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite challenges, climate-smart livestock farming has helped small and medium-scale family producers to maintain food security through the production of quality meat and milk that is safe and nutritional. Covid-19 also creates the opportunity of connecting the implementation of climate-smart livestock practices to international financing for the climate linked to the reduction of GHG emissions, the adaptation to climate change and the reduction of environmental degradation. Since the CSL approach promotes an efficient use of resources, producers will be able to implement practices that allow them to produce more with less, making them more resilient to exogenous shocks beyond climate impacts.

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    02 May 2016 (start date)
    31 October 2020 (date of completion)
    Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
    Other beneficiaries

    The project directly benefitted 347 female and 709 male producers from different associations in the intervention areas. Key stakeholders include the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Ministry of Environment and Water, and decentralized autonomous governments. Partnerships were created across the private sector and civil society, including BanEcuador, El Ordeño, Telefónica, and Children of the Andes Humanitarian.

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