Find the right tool to assess environmental impacts of farming

 Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)

A new dashboard allows users to navigate and choose from over 70 environmental assessment tools for agricultural systems.

Imagine you are a project manager looking for data on the environmental impact of your livestock development work. You’re also interested in the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions your project produces and ways to potentially reduce these emissions. Or perhaps instead you are a national-level policymaker working in an agriculture or livestock department seeking to understand where the biggest opportunities are for reducing emissions in your country’s livestock sector.

Currently, the data and tools for making these assessments are scattered – if they exist at all. This occurs despite data being essential to make meaningful investments and decisions around agriculture and climate.

That's why we've launched a new dashboard, to help decision makers navigate and select the tools they need to plan –  and seek funding for – evidence-based interventions.

A “tool of tools”

LD4D’s new dashboard provides an overview of tools that can help countries to assess the environmental and climate impact of livestock, rice, and the broader agricultural system. The aim of the dashboard is to help countries in the Global South in particular measure the environmental impact of agricultural activities, which in turn can help them to unlock the climate finance they need to reduce emissions.

The dashboard compiles over 70 tools covering various livestock species, commodities, and geographic scales. Users can select a number of filters to narrow down their search for a list of tools tailored for assessments at the level they are looking for.

Emissions reduction at the farm level

For example, a project manager looking to understand the emission levels and environmental impact of their livestock development project may already have access to data about on farm production but is now looking for emissions-related data.

The project manager can first select the scale of the project, such as “farm,” or “field.” From there, clicking the livestock icon filters all the tools in the dashboard that cover livestock, which can be narrowed down even further to show a particular type of livestock, such as ruminants or chickens. To measure the level of GHG emissions of the sustainable livestock development project, the project manager can select the “GHG emissions'' filter, which will then provide a list of all tools that can be used to assess on-farm emissions.

In addition, by selecting the keyword “GHG mitigation potential,” the user can refine their search further to find tools that help estimate how to potentially reduce emissions within the project – such as the SHAMBA tool.

Livestock at the country level

Elsewhere, a national-level policymaker working in a department for agriculture and livestock may use the tool to understand where the biggest opportunities are for reducing emissions in their country’s livestock sector. To do so, the policymaker can first select “country” as the scale and then filter “livestock” as the subject.

From here, a number of tools are suggested, each with a different focus. For example, to look at the whole life cycle of the livestock sector from farm to fork, “life-cycle analysis” should be selected and GLEAM or GLEAM-i will be the suggested tool to help to calculate livestock supply chain emissions in a particular country.

Data gaps

In compiling the best available tools, researchers identified a number of gaps. Currently, the vast majority of tools only consider one part of the agricultural sector, such as crops, while not many tools are bespoke for livestock systems.

In addition, few tools incorporate social metrics – such as gender equality and social inclusion – alongside environmental criteria, making it difficult to assess synergies or trade-offs in achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) together.

Above all, most tools are designed with high-income countries in mind, rather than low- and middle-income countries, often those who need access to such tools most.

These gaps may be seen as opportunities for developing tools that are tailored to the specific needs of low-and middle-income countries, especially as they seek climate financing.

What’s next?

The dashboard was created to provide a go-to place for policymakers, decision-makers, academics, and others interested in the environmental impact of agri-food systems. The SEBI-Livestock team will work closely with the LD4D network to explore specific decision-making use cases and continue to update the dashboard as tools are refined and new tools are released.

LD4D invites everyone across the sector to use and contribute to the dashboard to help it become a consolidated, go-to place to understand the tools available to assess the environmental impact of agricultural systems. Above all, dashboards such as these can help countries in the Global South to measure the environmental impact of agricultural activities, which can then help them to unlock the climate finance needed to reduce emissions.


This video demonstrates how to find the right tool for your context.

Learn more

Header image caption: Silvopastoral livestock systems in Colombia's southwestern Cauca Department. These systems can help livestock farmers improve productivity and incomes, protect and restore soils, and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems. Photo credit: N. Palmer (CIAT) (source)