In collaboration with National Agricultural Research System in Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania, scientists at Texas A&M University funded by USAID (1997-2003) through the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program developed the Livestock Early Warning System (LEWS).
The LEWS was designed to provide an early warning system for monitoring rangeland forage conditions, livestock nutrition and health for maintaining the food security of pastoralists. The program framework is an integral part of the existing system for drought and famine in pastoral areas of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somaliland, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The development and implementation of LEWS includes spatial characterization, establishment of monitoring sites, biophysical modeling, model analysis and field verification and automation of information dissemination.
The central thrust of the LEWS project is to provide information on impending drought in sufficient lead-time to allow government, NGOs and pastoral communities to react to the conditions in a timely manner to prevent resource degradation and loss of assets. Timely decision making by livestock owners concerning availability of forage supply, movement, destocking and restocking of livestock will be valuable for sustainable livestock production in eastern Africa.
The indigenous knowledge of the pastoral societies regarding range and livestock is much more effective if they can have access to near real-time information on impending forage shortages for livestock and location of forage supplies. This minimizes conflict during periods of restrictive conditions. A combination of this indigenous knowledge and modern science is used by decision makers to formulate clear mitigation strategies to reduce risk from extremes of weather conditions.
The project contributes to this noble venture by generating country-specific forage situation and deviation status reports updated every 10 days, a monthly advisory for Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda, and a regional forecast report for the same countries. These reports are posted via e-mail to an array of users that include government agencies, NGOs, UN agencies, and livestock stakeholder groups.