Livestock livelihoods for the poor: Beyond milk, meat and eggs

Kenya farm boy drinking milk

Kenya farm boy drinking milk (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

The science journal Animal Frontiers this month (Jan 2013) focuses on the links between livestock production and food security.

Maggie Gill edited the issue. Gill is an animal nutritionist by training who has spent years as a senior member of research institutions in the the UK (Natural Resources Institute, Natural Resources International, Macaulay Land Use Research Institute, Scottish Government) and presently divides her time between work for the UK Department for International Development and the University of Aberdeen while also serving on the CGIAR’s Independent Science and Partnership Council. She is a former board member of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

In her introductory editorial to this issue, which focuses on livelihoods for poor owners and food for rich consumers, Gill reminds readers of the vast differences in livestock systems between the world’s poor and rich people and nations.

‘The relationship between livestock and food security is often portrayed by the media in emotional terms such as “Go vegetarian to save the planet”. Yet the relationship is not so simple. There are positive impacts of livestock on “the planet,” not the least in terms of the economy, with trade in live animals and animal products contributing 40% of the global value of agricultural output (FAO, 2009), but also in terms of the 1 billion poor people in Africa and Asia who depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The challenge is that there are also negative impacts of livestock, and they tend to be good headline grabbers!

‘I was pleased, therefore, to be invited to serve as guest editor of this issue of Animal Frontiers . . . [and] to have the opportunity to include papers about some of the lesser publicized facts about livestock and food security. . . . [A second issue on this topic will be published in Jul 2013.]

‘This issue takes a high-level perspective, exploring the relationship between people and animals (including fish) in developing countries, through trade and particularly in terms of nutrition. It then looks ahead to the challenge of climate change and considers how one traditional system (pastoralism) has evolved to cope with environmental instability. It ends with a paper on breeding strategies as an illustration of how scientific advances can help the livestock sector to make the best use of resources in a dynamic world. . . .’

One of the seven papers featured in this issue is by Jimmy Smith, ILRI director general, and his ILRI colleagues. The article focuses mainly on the impacts and implications of livestock on food and nutrition security in poor countries, which go well beyond being a source of milk, meat, and eggs.

‘The paper by Smith et al. (2013)’, Gill says, ‘highlights, for example, the indirect benefits of livestock to the food security of poor livestock owners through income from the sale of their livestock products, enabling the purchase of (cheaper) staple foods and thus improving the nutritional status of members of the household, albeit not in the way many researchers expect! . . .’

Below are a few of the facts noted in Smith’s paper, ‘Beyond meat, milk and eggs: Role of livestock in food and nutrition security’.

Farm animals both increase (smallholder systems) and decrease (industrial systems) food supplies
‘Livestock contribute to food supply by converting low-value materials, inedible or unpalatable for people, into milk, meat, and eggs; livestock also decrease food supply by competing with people for food, especially grains fed to pigs and poultry. Currently, livestock supply 13% of energy to the world’s diet but consume one-half the world’s production of grains to do so.’

Livestock directly enhance the nutrition security of the poor
‘However, livestock directly contribute to nutrition security. Milk, meat, and eggs, the “animal-source foods,” though expensive sources of energy, are one of the best sources of high quality protein and micronutrients that are essential for normal development and good health. But poor people tend to sell rather than consume the animal-source foods that they produce.’

Livestock enhance food security mostly indirectly
‘The contribution of livestock to food, distinguished from nutrition security among the poor, is mostly indirect: sales of animals or produce, demand for which is rapidly growing, can provide cash for the purchase of staple foods, and provision of manure, draft power, and income for purchase of farm inputs can boost sustainable crop production in mixed crop-livestock systems.’

Smallholder livestock production and marketing can be ‘transformational’ for the world’s poor
‘Livestock have the potential to be transformative: by enhancing food and nutrition security, and providing income to pay for education and other needs, livestock can enable poor children to develop into healthy, well-educated, productive adults.’

The complex trade-offs inherent in livestock systems must be managed to increase the benefits and reduce the costs
‘The challenge is how to manage complex trade-offs to enable livestock’s positive impacts to be realized while minimizing and mitigating negative ones, including threats to the health of people and the environment.’

Read the whole illustrated article at Animal Frontiers: Beyond milk, meat, and eggs: Role of livestock in food and nutrition security, by Jimmy Smith, Keith Sones, Delia Grace, Susan MacMillan, Shirley Tarawali and Mario Herrero, Jan 2013, Vol. 3, No. 1, p 6–13, doi: 10.2527/af.2013-0002

The whole issue is available at Animal Frontiers: The contribution of animal production to global food security: Part 1: Livelihoods for poor owners and food for rich consumers, Jan 2013, which you can read about on the ILRI Clippings Blog today: Animal production and global food security: Livelihoods for poor owners and food for rich consumers, 8 Jan 2012.

 

ILRI’s new strategy–with evidence we can raise the livestock game

Last week, we interviewed International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) director general Jimmy Smith on his first eight months in office.

In the first video interview below, he comments on some emerging ‘big issues’ in ILRI’s new strategy. One is that we need to pay far more attention to the wider global debate on livestock; we also need a clear focus on ‘consumption’ and ‘consumers’, as well as climate change and livestock’s environmental footprint [more on ILRI’s ongoing strategy development process].

In the second video below, he comments on global perceptions that livestock are not good for the planet—and what this means for ILRI. He argues that ‘evidence’ is at the heart of ILRI’s contribution. We need better evidence of where livestock contributes positively and negatively, and we need to communicate this. [ILRI’s 2010 annual meeting was on the theme ‘livestock goods and bads.’ In April 2012, a global alliance on sustainable livestock was formed.].

Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands

Jimmy Smith and Francois Le Gall (WB)

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith (left) and the World Bank’s Francois Le Gall are co-hosting a high-level consultation for a global livestock agenda to 2020 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week.

Can our global livestock systems meet a triple bottom line—protecting health, the environment and equity? Can 14 high-level leaders and thinkers outline and agree on a strategy that can help the world fulfill on that ambitious livestock agenda to 2020? Can all this be done in one and a half days?

Three weeks after Bill Gates announced at a meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Rome new grants of USD200 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) to support the world’s smallholder farmers—a meeting in which Gates called on the big United Nations food-related agencies to work together to create a global productivity target for those small farmers—those agencies are meeting this week in Nairobi to hammer out the outlines of a consensus regarding strategies for a global livestock agenda to 2020.

This High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020 is being co-hosted by:
Francois Le Gall, livestock advisor at the World Bank, and
Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The dozen other heads of institutions and departments among the world’s leading bodies for food security that are taking part are:

ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
Soloman Benigno, project manager and animal health expert

AU-IBAR (African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources)
Ahmed El-Sawalhy, director
Bruce Mukanda, senior program and projects officer
Baba Soumare, chief animal health officer

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF)
Kristin Girvetz (formerly Grote), program officer

European Union (EU) Delegation to Kenya
Bernard Rey, head of operations

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations
Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Carlos Sere, chief development strategist

United Nations (UN)
David Nabarro, special representative of the UN secretary general for food security and nutrition (via filmed presentation)

World Bank
Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)
Bernard Vallat, director general
Walter Masiga, sub-regional representative for Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa

Among the ideas rising to the surface for these leaders of global livestock departments and institutions are the need to shift focus from livestock per se to livestock-based lives and lands. The discussions are centering initially on three pillars of livestock development: health, environment and equity.

David Nabarro, the UN special representative for food security and nutrition, in a filmed presentation for this high-level consultation, said:

There is a movement for the transformation of food systems throughout the world. Livestock is an essential part of this equation. ILRI and the World Bank are key actors in seeing that science is applied for effective action for improved livestock systems. This meeting is important and happening when it should.

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith then gave an overview of the trends, opportunities and challenges of livestock development.

Feeding the world is possible, Smith concluded, as is sustaining our natural resource base and reducing absolute poverty.

Our challenges in achieving these, the livestock director said, include ‘improving our methodologies to develop more reliable assessments of the hard trade-offs involved in choosing ways forward for livestock development, managing those trade-offs at multiple scales, and ensuring institutional innovations, which will be as important as technological innovations—and perhaps harder to achieve’.
Watch and listen to Smith’s presentation.

Among the trends Smith highlighted are:

  • Demand for livestock products continues to rise
  • Livestock systems will continue to produce much of the world’s food
  • There remains a vast divide between developed and developing regions in kinds of livestock systems and their costs and benefits, but those different worlds are increasingly interconnected

Smith stressed the need for more reliable evidence-based assessments of the hard trade-offs implicit in our choices for the livestock sector, which will differ greatly in different regions and circumstances, especially in light of the fact that livestock impact so many important global development issues (e.g., human health, environmental protection, global food security)

An example of how critical livestock issues are for human well-being that Smith pointed out is the interface between livestock and human health.

Animal source foods are the biggest contributor to food-borne disease, Smith said. Diseases transmitted from livestock and livestock products kill more people each year than HIV or malaria. Indeed, one new human disease emerges every 2 months; and 20 percent of these are transmitted from livestock.

This consultation on a global livestock agenda comes at an appropriate time for Jimmy Smith, who started his tenure as director general of ILRI only late last year and who has instituted a task force, headed by ILRI’s director for institutional planning Shirley Tarawali, to refresh ILRI’s long-term strategy for livestock research for development. As several of the other institutions represented at this meeting are also in the thick of rethinking their strategies, this 1.5-day intense consultation is able to harvest the fruits of much recent hard thinking that has already been done in these global and regional institutions.

‘Global Agenda of Action’ built for sustainable development of the world’s livestock sector

Building a Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development

A Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development is being built. It focuses on the improvement of resource-use efficiency in the livestock sector to support livelihoods, long-term food security and economic growth while safeguarding other environmental and public health outcomes.

Growing populations, income gains and urbanization have made livestock one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of agriculture. Growth in emerging economies has been particularly impressive and has been associated with a widespread transformation of the livestock sector. However, livestock sector growth has been largely unbalanced and often not been accompanied by concomitant adjustments and improvements in sector policies, governance and investments. Continuing demand expansion for livestock products and increasing resource constraints will likely exacerbate these trends.

A proposal by the current chair Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), to co-chair an Interim Preparatory Committee of the Global Agenda of Action with Francois Le Gall, livestock adviser at the World Bank, was endorsed by a second meeting of the Agenda’s  Multi-stakeholder Platform, in Phuket, Thailand, 1–4 Dec 2011.

This note describes the preparation of a Global Agenda of Action through a participatory process which focuses on consensus building among key stakeholders in the livestock sector for a subsequent operational phase.

Excerpts
‘A global agenda of action is being built around the notion that demand growth for livestock products will likely continue for decades to come, as incomes and human populations continue to grow. Such growth will need to be accommodated within the context of a finite and sometimes dwindling natural resource base, and will be faced with the need to respond to climate change, both adapting and mitigating.

‘Demand growth also presents opportunities for social and economic development that many developing countries would not want to miss. In addition, the livestock sector provides numerous opportunities for enhanced food security and livelihood support.

‘To ensure that such multiple promises for the livestock sector to contribute to society’s environmental, social, economic and health objectives materialize, concerted sector stakeholder action needs to be mobilized towards the necessary changes in regulatory frameworks, policies, technologies, and supporting investments.

‘The development of a Global Agenda of Action heeds the call of these opportunities.

Building a global agenda of action
‘A Global Agenda of Action in support of sustainable livestock sector development is consensual and built on broad based, voluntary and informal stakeholder commitment to act towards the improvement of resource-use efficiency in the global livestock sector to support livelihoods, long-term food security and economic growth while safeguarding other environmental and public health outcomes. member countries, private sector, civil society, academia, research, and international organization stakeholders have all been closely involved in broad stakeholder consultations to create awareness and to discuss and agree on the objectives, priorities, and conceptual framework of a global agenda of action.

‘The initiative is linked closely to FAO’s inter-governmental processes of its committee on agriculture (COAG), which during its 22nd session held in 2010 recommended that FAO actively engage in a global dialogue with a wide range of stakeholders to sharpen the definition of the livestock sector’s objectives.

‘Two multi-stakeholder platform (MSP) meetings have thus far been held as part of the development of a global agenda of action; the first in Brasilia, Brazil (17–20 May 2011), and the second in Phuket, Thailand (1–4 December 2011).

Where are we now?
‘The MSP endorsed natural resource use efficiency in the livestock sector, covering entire commodity chains, as the thematic centre of the agenda, initially focussing on three areas, namely “closing the efficiency gap”, “restoring value to grassland”, and “towards zero discharge”. The basic concept, or the main theory of change, underlying the Global Agenda of Action in each of these focus areas, is that resource use efficiency and thus sustainable development of the livestock sector can be achieved by an increase in the use of human-made resources and a concomitant reduction in the use of natural resources per unit of desired output. Whilst the relative emphasis and the approaches for each focus area will vary from region to region, each of the three focus areas presents specific ‘game changing’ opportunities to make large environmental, social and economic gains. . . .’

Find out more by visiting the the Global Agenda of Action website.

‘Feed the Future’: Connecting ALL the (agricultural research) dots in the Ethiopian highlands

Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands: Project Design Workshop—Project Outline and concepts

Watch and listen to a 17-minute (audio-enhanced) slide presentation made by ILRI’s Shirley Tarawali on the ‘Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands,’ 30 Jan 2012.

Can scientists make the whole of agricultural research for development greater than the sum of its parts? That’s the aim of a new initiative starting this year in three regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

As part of an American ‘Feed the Future’ initiative to reduce hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is supporting three agricultural research projects aiming to help Africa’s smallholders intensify their production systems and do so in ways that are sustainable.

These projects will be conducted in three regions of Africa: Sustainable intensification of cereal-based farming systems (1) in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa and (2) in East and Southern Africa, both led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria; and (3) Sustainable intensification of crop-livestock systems to improve food security and farm income diversification in the Ethiopian highlands, led by the International Livestock Research Institue (ILRI).

These three African agricultural intensification projects were all launched this year (2012) with design workshops. A wiki has information on the three workshops, including their agendas and outputs.

The design workshop for the project in the Ethiopian highlands has just started at ILRI’s campus in Addis Ababa. ILRI’s director for its People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, agronomist Shirley Tarawali, who will soon take up a new position as ILRI’s director of institutional planning, gave a 17-minute slide presentation on the project (above).

Tarawali said in her presentation that the project is ambitious to fix the disconnect between separate research projects on separate agricultural topics (livestock, cereals, water, and so on) by identifying and then pulling together the best research outputs from the separate research projects. Such outputs include, for example, the identification of legumes and cereals that will better feed livestock as well as people (and sometimes soils as well); ways to make more strategic use of scarce fertilizers and optimal combinations of organic (manure) and inorganic (synthetic) fertilizers; and more efficient ways to use water resources.

Add these kinds of useful products together and we could benefit whole farming systems,’ says Tarawali.

To learn more, or to contribute to the discussions, visit a blog about this Feed the Future initiative in the Ethiopian highlands.

Read an ILRI Clippings Blog about this initiative: Experts meet in Addis Ababa to design new agricultural research project for Ethiopian highlands, 30 Jan 2012.

Read more about the importance of small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farming systems in the developing world:

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection, 7 Dec 2011.

Mixed crop-and-livestock farmers on ‘extensive frontier’ critical to sustainable 21st century food system, 23 Jun 2011.

 

 

Livestock Exchange guides ILRI’s research on livestock

LiveSTOCK Exchange LogoOn 9 and 10 November 2011, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ in Addis Ababa to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. It was designed to contribute to the development of ILRI’s strategy in 2012 (see the current strategy). The event brought together about 130 participants from ILRI as well as from research and development partners.

The event was organized in six sessions

  • Livestock market opportunities for the poor: Value chain development, demand for livestock products, market-driven uptake of livestock technologies, market access and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements … See a presentation and related issue briefs
  • Livestock impact pathways: In a session on livestock impact pathways, participants discussed ways to enhance ILRI efforts on capacity development, knowledge, gender, communication, partnerships and innovation platforms. Watch video feedback from the group discussion

Besides the rich discussions, what else came out from the event?

We prepared 19 short issue briefs synthesizing our work in the various areas. Some 30 short reflections and think pieces were also contributed by staff, partners and former staff. These are all accessible on the ILRI Clippings blog – also in ‘PDF format’ in our repository.

Hard seat interview: Brian Perry and Segenet KelemuBetween the sessions, we organized three ‘hard seat’ interviews; read – and see – them here:

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General. During the meeting, Carlos reflected on his tenure saying “In some ways ILRI is very different from what it was 10 years ago; in other ways, it still is very much the same.” read the full blog post here and See photos of Carlos in this flickr set

This post is based on a draft prepared by Zerihun Sewunet at ILRI

Seminal and holistic review of the probable ‘futures’ of livestock production, food security and environmental protection

Watch the whole of this filmed slide presentation by ILRI’s Mario Herrero on ILRI’s film channel: The future of livestock in feeding the world (duration: 28 minutes, 25 Nov 2011).

On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2‐day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. ILRI systems analyst Mario Herrero gave a keynote presentation titled ‘Global Livestock: Drivers, Trends and Futures’. What follows are highlights of the first half of his talk.

We need to feed 9–10 billion people by 2050 and we need to do so at a far lower environmental cost, basically with the same amount of land and less greenhouse gas emissions and water and nutrient use and at the same time in socially and economically acceptable ways.

Food systems have been changing and they’re likely to change even more as our population increases. So the target is moving.

Livestock systems are in transition
The drivers and trends playing key roles in these changes include: the increasing human population, the ‘livestock revolution (as people get richer in emerging economies, they consume more animal products), and an unprecedented movement of people to cities.

The demand for livestock products to 2050 is going to be enormous. Total consumption is likely to be 2.5 times more than what we’ve experienced in the last decades. Just image the resource-use implications of producing all this meat and milk.

What are people eating and how are we going to produce all the new feed and food needed?
People want chicken, pork and milk; these are the livestock foods growing at the fastest rates across the world. We need to see how we can increase our efficiencies in use of fresh water, 70% of which is used for agriculture. How do we increase efficiency gains of water use in the livestock sector?

Climate change
To complicate the picture even further, we have climate change. Recent assessments are telling us that the costs of the agricultural sector adapting to climate change go as high as USD145 billion per year. That figure represents 3% of global agricultural costs per year. The $145 billion represents the cost of the added technological change that we are going to need to produce food and counteract the impacts of climate change. This is no small sum of money! Remember that the G20 committed to give USD20 billion for agricultural development. This is simply not enough.

Reality check
Food prices have been decreasing until recently. It’s likely that the increasing food prices, which severely affcct the poor, will keep on increasing. We need to be able to plan how to adjust our agricultural systems to produce more food and dampen those prices and do this without incurring a big environmental cost.

The livestock ‘balancing act’
We know that keeping livestock has many advantages—they are an important source of nutrition, especially for poor people; they generate great incomes (the value of production of livestock is in many cases far higher than that for crops); and they help poor people to manage risks; they help maintain productive landscapes; and they are raised on many lands unsuitable for other kinds of food production.

Of course, on the other hand, livestock are inherently inefficient users of land; they are large users of natural resources; they are polluters in places; they produce a significant amount of greenhouse gases; and they are an important vector for human diseases.

What is key is realizing that livestock systems differ greatly by region and circumstance. We need a nuanced understanding of how this livestock ‘balancing act’ plays out in different parts of the world. . . .

Watch the whole of this filmed slide presentation by ILRI’s Mario Herrero on ILRI’s film channel: The future of livestock in feeding the world, duration: 28 minutes, 25 Nov 2011.


On 9 and 10 November 2011, the ILRI Board of Trustees hosted a 2-day ‘liveSTOCK Exchange’ to discuss and reflect on livestock research for development. The event synthesized sector and ILRI learning and helped frame future livestock research for development directions.

The liveSTOCK Exchange also marked the leadership and contributions of Dr. Carlos Seré as ILRI Director General.  See all posts in this seriesSign up for email alerts

Small-scale farmers remain crucial to Vietnamese pork industry

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Pigs feeding at a farm in Vietnam: Small-scale farmers remain crucial to the growth of Vietnam’s pork industry (photo from Flickr by Stephen McGrath, Rock Portrait Photography).

A project that evaluated pig production and marketing in Vietnam shows that supply shortages could be responsible for the current high prices of pork in the country. Supporting small-scale farmers to produce more pigs and improving pork distribution and marketing chains could hold the key to keeping rising prices of pork in the country in check.

Between December 2010 and June 2011, Vietnam experienced a 22 per cent rise in the food price index (a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities). A spike in the prices of pork, a key part of the Vietnamese diet, was largely responsible for this rise in food costs. Government and pork industry players in the country have blamed the rise in pork prices on both unregulated pork exports to China through cross-border trade and a rise in global food prices generally.

Even though industry stakeholders, including the government, say importing more meat and supporting large commercial producers will stabilize the pork market in Vietnam, research suggests that developing large farms to address supply constraints will not solve the price problem over the long-term. According to the project, which was carried out between 2007 and 2010 in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh and six of Vietnam’s provinces, large farms will provide ‘only a small share over the next decade, offering only up to 12 per cent of [the country’s] total pork supply.’ The project, titled ‘Improving competitiveness of smallholder pig producers in an adjusting Vietnam market’, was funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Many pressing challenges face the Vietnamese pork industry, including increasing feed prices and demand for pork, poor management of the pork value chain, concerns about pig diseases, difficulty finding piglets and other inputs and poor veterinary and credit services.

‘Demand for pork in Vietnam is growing faster than its domestic supply,’ said Lucy Lapar, an economist with ILRI in Vietnam. ‘What our research found was that the recent steep rise in the pork price is most likely a result of inefficiencies along the value chain rather than a critical shortage in pork supply. Normally, high pork prices might encourage pig farmers to expand their production, but in this case, despite the high prices, farmers seem hesitant to raise their pork production,’ said Lapar.

Small-scale farmers in particular worry about pig diseases and the difficulty they face in getting hold of piglets and support services. ‘We need to find ways to address these constraints and bring about substantial improvement to the pig production system,’ said Lapar. ‘Even though efforts by those involved in the pig industry are focusing on increasing large-scale farming of pigs, they must not neglect smallholders who will almost certainly continue to play a significant role in meeting the growing demands for pork in Vietnam in the near future.’

Vietnam’s smallholder pig producers will remain viable because they are able to produce pork at lower costs than large-scale farms by using household scraps and other feeds that would otherwise be unused and thus do not need to rely on feed imports. These practices make small-scale pork production efficient in the long term, translating to better pries for consumers.

‘A combination of small household producers and large pig producers is most efficient for Vietnam at this stage of its pork industry’s development,’ says Lapar. The implications from this project’s findings suggest that the Vietnamese Government and pork industry players should put in place systems and practices that make the pork value chain more efficient and support markets for both small and large producers in the country.

To read more about the project and its findings, visit: http://www.ilri.org/PigProducers and http://mahider.ilri.org/handle/10568/606/browse

Livestock systems in Africa: The big picture–by livestock economist Carlos Sere

Watch this 11-minute video of a slide presentation made by ILRI Director General Carlos Seré in Los Banos, the Philippines, in late 2010 (video produced by the International Rice Research Institute).

In a slide presentation on ‘Reinventing Agriculture in the 21st Century: Livestock Systems in Africa,’ Carlos Seré, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), made three main points.

First, livestock is the fastest growing part of developing-world agriculture. It’s the ‘demand pull’ that can drive these agricultural systems.

Second, these are all ‘mixed systems’, with crop growing mixed with livestock raising; understanding the interactions between them is essential for the design of any strategy for agricultural development.

Third, we have a lot of the building blocks to achieve ‘sustainable intensification’ of smallholder agricultural production, but the real challenge is much more institutional in nature—how do we tie everything together, scale out the best interventions, and deliver them effectively?

Data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) tells us that the most important agricultural commodity in the world is cow’s milk, followed by rice, cattle meat, pig meat, chicken, wheat and eggs . . . So we can see that livestock is central to the global agricultural sector and becomes increasingly so as societies develop. In developing countries, rice is the number one commodity, followed by indigenous cattle meat and cow’s milk.

Due to population growth and other factors, the developing world’s livestock systems are changing fast and in big ways. Science can help the world’s poorer livestock keepers to work with these trends.

Most people in developing countries live in areas where mixed crop-livestock systems predominate. That is something we tend to forget: we tend to come in with a specific disciplinary approach, looking at crops or trees or livestock in isolation, when all these and more are integrated in a whole agricultural system that we must attend to.

Seré summed up his presentation by saying that livestock is the motor that brings in cash to smallholder mixed farmers. While cereals sustain the family, animals are the cash source. There’s a lot of potential to help small-scale livestock keepers to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced per kilo of livestock output. A lot of the techniques and interventions needed to intensify smallholder food production are already there; the challenge is how to bring them all together at scale and in useful ways for the farmer.

Jimmy Smith on the future of global livestock development

In this 5-minute film, Jimmy Smith, director general designate of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), shares his perspectives on the opportunities and challenges offered by global livestock development.

He highlights issues he believes will influence livestock research in the coming years. Smith was speaking during his second visit (since his appointment in April 2011) to the ILRI campus in Nairobi.

Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures

Cow in Rajasthan, India

Profile of a cow kept by the Rajasthani agro-pastoralists who have inhabited India’s state of Rajasthan (‘land of kings’ or ‘colours’), from the Great Thar Desert in the northwest to the better-watered regions of the southeast, since parts of it formed the great trading and urban Indus Valley (3000-500 BC) and Harappan (1,000 BC) civilizations (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

We know that livestock produce significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Just how much remains somewhat contentious, with the estimated contributions of livestock to global greenhouse gas emissions ranging from 10 to 51%, depending on who is doing the analyses, and how.

A new commentary, published in a special ‘animal feed’ issue of the scientific journal Animal Feed and Technology, examines the main discrepancies between well known and documented studies such as FAO’s Livestock Long Shadow report (FAO 2006) and some more recent estimates. The authors of the commentary advocate for better documentation of assumptions and methodologies for estimating emissions and the need for greater scientific debate, discussion and scrutiny in this area.

The authors of the new article, ‘Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right,’ are a distinguished group of experts from diverse institutions working in this area, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO, Rome), Wageningen University and Research Centre (Netherlands), the Food Climate Research Network at the Centre for Environmental Strategy (FCRN, University of Surrey), the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre at the Institute for Environment and Sustainability (JRC, Italy), the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL, Bilthoven), Aarhus University’s Department of Agroecology and Environment (Denmark), New Zealand’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (Wellington), the Institute Nationale de la Recherche Agronomique (France), the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada group at Lethbridge Research Centre (Alberta) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, Nairobi).

This group of international scientists presents the case of one recent argument as follows.

‘In 2006, the FAO’s Livestock’s Long Shadow report (FAO, 2006), using well documented and rigorous life cycle analyses, estimated that global livestock contributes to 18% of global GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions. According to the study the main contributors to GHG from livestock systems are land use change (carbon dioxide, CO2), enteric fermentation from ruminants (methane, CH4) and manure management (nitrous oxide, N2O).

‘A . . . non-peer reviewed report published by the Worldwatch Institute (Goodland and Anhang 2009) contested these figures and argued that GHG emissions from livestock could be closer to 51% of global GHG emissions. In our view, this report has oversimplified the issue with respect to livestock production. It has emphasised the negative impacts without highlighting the positives and, in doing so, has used a methodological approach which we believe to be flawed.’

Mario Herrero, lead author of the Animal Feed and Technology paper, is a systems analyst and climate change specialist working at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). Herrero argues that Goodland and Anhang, while claiming in the non-scientifically peer-reviewed World Watch Magazine (which is published by Worldwatch Institute) that livestock generate 51% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions rather than the 18% reported by FAO in 2007, fail to detail the methodologies they used to come up with this new figure, fail to use those methods consistently across different sectors, and fail to follow global guidelines for assessing emissions set by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and Kyoto Protocol.

Furthermore, Hererro says, the World Watch authors’ solution to livestock’s contribution to global warming—’to eat less animal products, or better still, none at all’—could push some 1 billion livestock keepers and consumers living on little more than a dollar a day into even greater poverty (small livestock enterprises are the mainstay of many poor people) and severe malnourishment (milk is among the few high-quality foods readily available to many poor people, with consumption of modest quantities of dairy making the difference between health and illness, especially in children and women of child-bearing ages).

Goodland and Anhang also fail to enlarge on any counterfactuals, such as what a world without domesticated livestock would look like.

Over a billion people make a living from livestock, says ILRI director general Carlos Seré. Most of them are among the poorest of the poor. What, other than livestock keeping, would most African and Indian farming households turn to in order to meet their needs for scarce protein, fertilizer, employment, income, traction, means of saving, and insurance against crop failure?

While many of us may find the factory farming of animals in rich countries objectionable on several grounds, Seré says, we must be responsible not to conflate industrial grain-fed livestock systems of rich producers with the family farming and herding practices of hundreds of millions of poor producers, most of whom still maintain their animals not on grain but on pasture grass and other crop wastes not edible by humans.

The biggest concern of many experts regarding livestock in developing countries, Seré says, is not their impact on climate change but rather the impact of climate change on livestock production.

The hotter and more extreme tropical environments being predicted threaten not only up to a billion livelihoods based on livestock but also supplies of milk, meat and eggs among hungry communities that need these nourishing foods most. For people living in absolute poverty and chronic hunger, the solution is not to rid the world of livestock, but rather to find ways to farm animals more efficiently and profitably, as well as sustainably.

Tara Garnett, a co-author of the new paper and a research fellow at the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey, in the UK, investigates issues around livestock and greenhouse gas emissions in her highly credible and readable publication Cooking up a Storm: Food, Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Our Changing Climate (2008). Garnett, who also runs the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), which brings together nearly 2,000 individuals from a broad variety of disciplines to share information on issues relating to food and climate change, agrees with Seré on this.

By 2050, on current projections, Garnett reports, the developing world will still, on average, be eating less than half as much meat as people do in the rich world, and only a third of the milk. There is a long way to go before they catch up with developed world levels.

While there is an increasingly urgent need to reduce demand for meat and dairy products among consumers in developed countries, and also to moderate rapid growth in demand for these foods in emerging, rapidly industrializing, countries, for the world’s poorest people, small-scale livestock enterprises can increase household incomes and improve livelihoods. Greater consumption of meat and dairy products—in addition to a more diverse range of plant-based foods—can play a critical role in combatting malnutrition and enhancing nutritional status.’

Herrero and Garnett and their other co-authors conclude that ‘Livestock undoubtedly need to be a priority focus of attention as the global community seeks to address the challenge of climate change. The magnitude of the discrepancy between the Goodland and Anhang paper (2009) and widely recognized estimates of GHG from livestock (FAO, 2006), illustrates the need to provide the climate change community and policy makers with accurate emissions estimates and information about the link between agriculture and climate.

‘Improving the global estimates of GHG attributed to livestock systems is of paramount importance. This is not only because we need to define the magnitude of the impact of livestock on climate change, but also because we need to understand their contribution relative to other sources. Such information will enable effective mitigation options to be designed to reduce emissions and improve the sustainability of the livestock sector while continuing to provide livelihoods and food for a wide range of people, especially the poor. We need to understand where livestock can help and where they hinder the goals of resilient global ecosystems and a sustainable, equitable future for future generations.

‘We believe these efforts need to be part of an ongoing process, but one that is to be conducted through transparent, well established methodologies, rigorous science and open scientific debate. Only in this way will we be able to advance the debate on livestock and climate change and inform policy, climate change negotiations and public opinion more accurately.’

Read the whole post-print paper by Mario Herrero, P Gerber, T Vellinga, T Garnett, A Leip, C Opio, HJ Westhoek, PK Thornton, J Olesen, N Hutchings, H Montgomery, J-F Soussana, H Steinfeld and TA McAllister: Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: The importance of getting the numbers right, a special issue on ‘Greenhouse Gases in Animal Agriculture—Finding a Balance between Food and Emissions’ published this month in 2011 in Animal Feed Science and Technology 166–167: 779–782 (doi: 10.1016/j.anifeedsci.2011.04.083).

Read the Goodland and Anhang article in World Watch Magazine: Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are…cows, pigs, and chickens? November/December 2009.

A tribute to the heroes of small-scale food production

Watch ILRI’s new 4-minute photofilm, A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production.

A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those who farm both crops and livestock—hold the key to feeding the world in coming years. Most of the world’s ‘mixed’ farmers are smallholders tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few animals. A research report led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) indicates that this group is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades (see ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2010, ‘Back to the Future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems’). This photofilm celebrates these ‘unsung heroes’—both the mixed farmers themselves and their farm animals.

 

Some of our readers will remember that last year a perspective piece by ILRI was published in a special February 2010 issue of Science on food security, “Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems”, focused on the importance of the same smallholder mixed farmers.

This article was based on results of a study by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR Consortium.

Small farms that combine crop and livestock production supply much of the food staples (41 percent of maize, 86 percent of rice, and 74 percent of millet), as well as most of the meat and dairy products consumed in these countries.

The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale agriculture farming are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards these ‘mixed’ farmers.

The pressures of climate change and finite resources, as well as the increasing demand for milk, meat and eggs across the developing world, will require proper planning, looking beyond ‘business as usual investments,’ and a greater ‘intellectual commitment’ to understanding food systems in the developing world.

Read more on this topic in ILRI’s Corporate Report 2009–2010: Back to the Future: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems, 2009.

Or visit the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme website.