Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Livestock and fertilizers emit green house gases

The deadline for submission of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is fast approaching. In Botswana, some sectors directly involving ordinary citizens have been found by researchers to contribute in green house gas emissions.

For instance the livestock sector reportedly contributes approximately seven per cent of the carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq.) annually with methane being the sole green house gas from this sector. A report compiled for the Department of Meteorological Services indicates that one of the mitigation measures meant to reduce enteric fermentation emission from the livestock sector will be through improving the quality of livestock diets to enhance the growth of livestock for market readiness.

“These changes do not only result in lower emissions on per unit of product, but also improve the economics and productivity of the herds, and can allow smaller animal populations to support a sustained production level. Currently, the government of Botswana has intensified efforts to improve livestock diet through ISPAAD program where farmers are encouraged to plant Lablab as livestock feed,” said the report.

Thus, this is a feasible mitigation measure for reducing methane from the livestock sector as it has been scientifically proven that improved diet results in reduced enteric fermentation. However, most of the livestock in the country are highly mobile, making this mitigation less feasible. In addition, production of lablab and other feeds is rain fed, making this mitigation measure to be highly unreliable. It is therefore recommended that this mitigation measure be excluded from the INDCs. However, these mitigation initiatives must be highlighted and reported to the international community to demonstrate the country’s commitments to continuously reduce its GHGs emissions. Fertilizers are also mentioned as the major source of GHGs, particularly nitrogen fertilizers which are responsible for nitrous oxide emissions. Fertilizers’ utilization in the country is relatively small.

“For instance, by 2010, it was estimated that approximately 3384 metric tons of fertilizers were distributed by the Ministry of Agriculture and the figure rose to 5864 metric tons in 2014. Based on the IPCC emission factor of 0.01-0.0125 per Gg, the estimated N2O emission is insignificantly small to be reported,” read the report.

Additionally, due to emphasis on smart agricultural initiatives such as Integrated Pest Management and Integrated Soil Management, it is envisaged that by 2030, the usage of inorganic fertilizers will not increase substantially,” it states.   

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