‘Livestock Research for Africa’s Food Security’: Join us at our side event at FARA’s AASW in Accra, 15 July

Invitation to the ILRI side event at FARA_AASW6

Next week, staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and many other CGIAR centres and research programs are attending the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), which is being hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Government of Ghana and runs from Monday–Saturday, 15–20 Jul 2013.
CGIAR is a global partnership for a food-secure future that conducts and disseminates research to improve the lives, livelihoods and lands of the world’s poorest people. CGIAR research is conducted by 15 of the world’s leading agricultural development research centres and 16 global research programs, all of them partnering with many stakeholders in Africa. More than half of CGIAR funding (52% in 2012) targets African-focused research.

The theme of next week’s AASW6 is ‘Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation’. CGIAR is supporting African-driven solutions to food security by partnering with FARA and the African Union, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), sub-regional organizations, national agricultural research systems and many other private and non-governmental as well as public organizations.

ILRI and livestock issues at AASW6

Ten ILRI scientists and staff will briefly speak and then engage with other participants in a side event ILRI is organizing at AASW6 on the topic of Livestock research for Africa’s food security. This three-hour morning side event will be facilitated by ILRI’s knowledge management and communication specialist, Ewen Le Borgne, and will be highly participatory in nature.

If you plan to attend this session, please shoot an email confirmation to Teresa Werrhe-Abira(t.werrhe-abira [at] cgiar.org) so we can organize refreshments.

And if you’d like to use this opportunity to talk with or interview one of the ILRI staff members below, or just meet them, please do so! ILRI communication officers Muthoni Njiru (m.njiru [at] cgiar.org) and Paul Karaimu (p.karaimu [at] cgiar.org) will be on hand at the ILRI side session (and you’ll find one or both at the CGIAR booth most of the rest of the week) to give you any assistance you may need.

Among the speakers at the ILRI side session will be the following.

Jimmy Smith, a Canadian, became director general of ILRI in Oct 2011. Before that, he worked for the World Bank in Washington, DC, leading the Bank’s Global Livestock Portfolio. Before joining the World Bank, Smith held senior positions at the Canadian International Development Agency. Still earlier in his career, he worked at ILRI and its predecessor, the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), where he served as the institute’s regional representative for West Africa and subsequently managed the ILRI-led Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR, involving ten CGIAR centres working at the crop-livestock interface. Before his decade of work at ILCA/ILRI, Smith held senior positions in the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Smith is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urban-Champaign, USA, where he completed a PhD in animal sciences. He was born in Guyana, where he was raised on a small mixed crop-and-livestock farm.

John McIntire (USA) is ILRI deputy director general for research-integrated sciences. He obtained a PhD in agricultural economics in 1980 from Tufts University using results of farm-level field studies of smallholder crop production in francophone Africa. He subsequently served as an economist for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in Washington, DC, and the West Africa Program of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), in Burkina Faso and Niger, and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA), one of ILRI’s two predecessors, in Ethiopia. He is co-author of Crop Livestock Integration in Sub-Saharan Africa (1992), a book still widely cited 20 years later. McIntire joined the World Bank in 1989, where he worked (in Mexico, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi) until his retirement in 2011. In 2011, he became the second person to receive both the Bank’s ‘Good Manager Award’ and ‘Green Award for Environmental Leadership’.

Shirley Tarawali (UK) is ILRI director of institutional planning and partnerships. Before taking on this role, Tarawali was director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment Theme, with responsibilities spanning sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. She holds a PhD in plant science from the University of London. Previously, Tarawali held a joint appointment with ILRI and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), based in Ibadan, Nigeria. Her fields of specialization include mixed crop-livestock and pastoral systems in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

  • Delia Grace: Food safety and aflatoxins

Delia Grace (Ireland) is an ILRI veterinarian and epidemiologist who leads a program at ILRI on food safety and zoonosis. She also leads a flagship project on ‘Agriculture-Associated Diseases’, which is a component of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), USA. Grace has broad developing-country expertise in food safety, risk factor analysis, ecohealth/one health, gender and livestock, participatory methods, randomized trials and health metrics.

Questions Grace will address in ILRI’s side event are:
What are risk-based approaches to food safety in informal markets where most of the poor buy & sell?
How should we deal with food safety dynamics: livestock revolution, urbanization, globalization?
How can we better understand the public health impacts of aflatoxins?

  • Polly Ericksen: Vulnerability and risk in drylands

Polly Ericksen (USA) leads drylands research at ILRI and for the CGIAR Research Program on Drylands Systems in East and Southern Africa, where, in the coming years, the program aims to assist 20 million people and mitigate land degradation over some 600,000 square kilometres. That CGIAR research  program as a whole is led by the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria. Ericksen also leads a Technical Consortium for Ending Drought Emergencies and Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa. Her broad expertise includes food systems, ecosystem services and adaptations to climate change by poor agricultural and pastoral societies.

Questions Ericksen will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can commercial pastoral livestock production lead to growth in risk-prone drylands?
Is there a long-term role for livestock insurance in pastoral production systems?

  • Iain WrightAlan Duncan and Michael Blümmel: The biomass crisis in intensifying smallholder systems

Iain Wright (UK) is ILRI director general’s representative in Ethiopia and head of ILRI’s Addis Ababa campus, where over 300 staff are located. He also directs  ILRI’s Animal Science for Sustainable Productivity program, a USD15-million global program working to increase the productivity of livestock systems in developing countries through high-quality animal science (breeding, nutrition and animal health) and livestock systems research. Before this, Wright served as director of ILRI’s People, Livestock and the Environment theme. And before that, from 2006 to 2011, he was ILRI’s regional representative for Asia, based in New Delhi and coordinating ILRI’s activities in South, Southeast Asia and East Asia. Wright has a PhD in animal nutrition. Before joining ILRI, he managed several research programs at the Macaulay Institute, in Scotland.

Alan Duncan (UK) is an ILRI livestock feed specialist and joint leader of the Nile Basin Development Challenge Programme. Duncan joined ILRI in 2007, also  coming from Scotland’s Macaulay Institute. Duncan has a technical background in livestock nutrition but in recent years has been researching institutional barriers to feed improvement among smallholders. He also works on livestock-water interactions, which are a key issue in Ethiopia, where he is based, particularly in relation to the competition for water occurring between the growing of livestock feed and that of staple crops. Duncan manages a range of research-for-development projects and acts as ILRI’s focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics, which is led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria.

Michael Blümmel (Germany) is an ILRI animal nutritionist with PhD (1994) and Habilitation (2004) degrees from the University of Hohenheim, in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in research, teaching and development in Europe, the US, Africa and Asia. Blümmel’s major research interests include feeding and feed resourcing at the interface of positive and negative effects from livestock, multi-dimensional crop improvement concomitantly to improve food, feed and fodder traits in new crop cultivars, and optimization of locally available feed resources through small business enterprises around decentralized feed processing.

A question they will address in ILRI’s side event is:
What are the options for sustainable intensification through livestock feeding?

  • Ethel Makila: Mobilizing biosciences for a food-secure Africa

Ethel Makila (Kenya) is ILRI communications officer for the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub. She is a graphic designer expert in development communication, media and education. At the BecA-ILRI Hub, she is responsible for increasing awareness of the Hub’s activities, facilities and impacts among African farmers, research institutes, government departments, Pan-African organizations and the international donor and research communities.

Questions Makila will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How can we build bio-sciences capacity in Africa to move from research results to development impacts?
How can we keep the BecA-ILRI Hub relevant to the research needs and context of African scientists?

  • Suzanne Bertrand: Vaccine biosciences

Suzanne Bertrand (Canada) is ILRI deputy director general for research-biosciences. With a PhD in plant molecular biology from Laval University, Bertrand began her career as a scientist with Agri-Food Canada, working on forage plants. Her focus shifted rapidly from laboratory-based research to application of modern agri-technology in the developing world. Her overseas assignments included spells in the People’s Republic of China and Tunisia. She spent six years in the USA, first as research assistant professor at North Carolina State University, and then as a founding principal for a biotechnology start-up company. She then joined Livestock Improvement (LIC), a large dairy breeding enterprise in New Zealand, where she managed LIC’s Research and Development Group, delivering science-based solutions in the areas of genomics, reproductive health, animal evaluation and commercialization to the dairy sector. In 2008, Bertrand became director, International Linkages for the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology in New Zealand. She was later chief executive officer for NZBIO, an NGO representing the interests and supporting growth of the bioscience sector in New Zealand.

Questions Bertrand will address in ILRI’s side event are:
How do we stimulate and sustain an African vaccine R&D pathway to achieve impact?
How can we grow a biotech and vaccine manufacturing sector in Africa?

Find more information about AASW6, including a full agenda, and follow the hashtag #AASW6 on social media.

Full list of ILRI participants at AASW6

  • Jimmy Smith, director general, based at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya
  • John McIntire, deputy director general-Integrated Sciences, Nairobi
  • Suzanne Bertrand, deputy director general—Biosciences, Nairobi
  • Shirley Tarawali, director of Institutional Planning and Partnerships, Nairobi
  • Iain Wright, director of ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture Program, based at ILRI’s second principal campus, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Abdou Fall, ILRI regional representative and manager of conservation of West African livestock genetic resources project, based in Senegal
  • Iheanacho (Acho) Okike, manages project of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish, based in Ibadan, Nigeria
  • Appolinaire Djikeng, director of the Biosciences eastern and Central Africa-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Iddo Dror, head of ILRI Capacity Development, Nairobi
  • Delia Grace, leads ILRI Food Safety and Zoonosis program and also an ‘Agriculture-Associate Diseases’ component of CRP on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, Nairobi
  • Joy Appiah, former student in ILRI Safe Food, Fair Food project; ILRI is supporting his participation at AASW6; he is now at the University of Ghana
  • Polly Ericksen, leads dryands research within ILRI Livestock Systems and Environment program, serves as ILRI focal point for two CGIAR research programs—on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security and Dryland Systems—and leads a Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of Africa, based in Nairobi
  • Katie Downie, coordinator of the Technical Consortium for Building Resilience to Drought in the Horn of AfricaHorn of Africa, Nairobi
  • Alan Duncan, leads feed innovations research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program and serves as ILRI focal point for the CGIAR Research Program on the HumidTropics, Addis Ababa
  • Michael Blümmel, leads feed resources research within ILRI Animal Sciences for Sustainable Agriculture program, based at ICRISAT, in Hyderabad, India
  • Allan Liavoga, deputy program manager of Bio-Innovate, Nairobi
  • Dolapo Enahoro, agricultural economist within ILRI Policy, Trade and Value Chains program, based in Accra

Communications support

  • Ewen LeBorgne, ILRI knowledge management and communications specialist; is facilitating ILRI’s side session at AASW6 on 15 Jul; based in Addis Ababa
  • Muthoni Njiru, ILRI communications officer in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing media relations, exhibit materials, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Paul Karaimu, ILRI communications writer/editor in ILRI Public Awareness unit: overseeing blogging, photography, video reporting at AASW6; Nairobi
  • Ethel Makila, ILRI communications specialist for the BecA-ILRI Hub, Nairobi
  • Albert Mwangi, ILRI communications specialist for Bio-Innovate, Nairobi


  • Cheikh Ly, ILRI board member, from Senegal, veterinary expert at FAO, based in Accra, Ghana
  • Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, ILRI board chair, from Zimbabwe, livestock scientist, agricultural policy thinker, and CEO and head of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, South Africa

Livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’: What are the published facts?

Study for Composition VIII (The Cow), by Theo van Doesburg, c. 1918

‘Study for Composition VIII (The Cow)’, by Theo van Doesburg, c.1918, via WikiPaintings.

Yesterday’s post on this ILRI News Blog, Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act and a balanced account, highlighted the overviews and conclusions provided in a new science paper on the roles of livestock in developing countries.

The paper, written by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), also provides a wealth of research-based livestock facts little known (and less cited) in current global debates on the roles farm animals play in reducing or promoting global poverty, hunger, malnutrition, gender inequality, ill health, infectious disease and environmental harm.

The authors of the paper argue that no single, or simple, way exists to view, approach or resolve issues at the interface of livestock and these big global problems.

Consider the following facts / complicating factors cited in the new paper.

Up to 1.3 billion people globally are employed in different livestock product value chains globally (Herrero et al. 2009). Milk and meat rank as some of the agricultural commodities with the highest gross value of production (VOP) in the developing world (FAOSTAT 2011). Nearly 1 billion people living on less than 2 dollars a day in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa keep livestock (FAO 2009). More than 80% of poor Africans keep livestock and 40–66% of poor people in India and Bangladesh keep livestock (FAO 2009). Some 68% of households in the developing world earn income from livestock (Davis et al. 2007). Across the developing world, livestock contribute, on average, 33% of household income in mixed crop-livestock systems and 55% of pastoral incomes (Staal et al. 2009). The growth in demand for milk and meat, mainly driven by urban consumers in developing countries, has been increasing in the last few decades and is projected to double by 2050 (Delgado et al. 1999, Rosegrant et al. 2009).

‘Livestock contribute greatly to global food security: they directly provide highly nourishing animal-source foods; they provide scarce cash income from sales of livestock and livestock products used to purchase food; their manure and traction increase household cereal supplies; and increases in livestock production can increase access by the poor to livestock foods through lower prices of livestock products.’

  • Livestock systems in developing countries now produce about 50% of the world’s beef, as well as 41% of our milk, 72% of our lamb, 59% of our pork and 53% of our poultry future (Herrero et al. 2009); all these shares are expected to increase in future (Bruinsma 2003, Rosegrant et al. 2009).
  • Most meat and milk in the developing world comes from so-called ‘mixed’ crop-and-livestock systems [which] . . . are central to global food security, as they also produce close to 50% of the global cereal output (Herrero et al. 2009 and 2010).

‘Although livestock and fish clearly make important contributions to overall food security, there is an even more important role of animal source foods in achieving nutrition, as opposed to food, security. Animal source foods are dense and palatable sources of energy and high-quality protein, important for vulnerable groups, such as infants, children, pregnant and nursing women and people living with human immunodeficiency virus with high nutritional needs. They also provide a variety of essential micronutrients, some of which, such as vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, iron, zinc and various essential fatty acids, are difficult to obtain in adequate amounts from plant-based foods alone (Murphy and Allen 2003). Animal source foods provide multiple micronutrients simultaneously, which can be important in diets that are lacking in more than one nutrient: for example, vitamin A and riboflavin are both needed for iron mobilisation and haemoglobin synthesis, and supplementation with iron alone may not successfully treat anaemia if these other nutrients are deficient (Allen 2002). Micronutrients in animal source foods are also often more readily absorbed and bioavailable than those in plant-based foods (Murphy and Allen 2003).’

‘Almost two-thirds of the world’s billion poor livestock keepers are rural women (Staal et al. 2009). . . . Livestock are an important asset for women because it is often easier for women in developing countries to acquire livestock assets . . . than it is for them to purchase land or other physical assets or to control other financial assets (Rubin et al. 2010). . . . Livestock assets are generally more equitably distributed between men and women than are other assets like land (Flintan 2008). . . . Women generally play a major role in managing and caring for animals, even when they are not the owners. . . . Despite the role of women in livestock production, women have lower access to technologies and inputs than men and there are gender disparities in access to extension services, information and training throughout the developing world due to women’s long workdays, a neglect of women’s needs and circumstances when targeting extension work, and widespread female illiteracy.’

‘In developing countries, human health is inextricably linked to the livestock, which underpin the livelihoods of almost a billion people . . . . Livestock have an essential role in contributing to good health through providing animal source food, manure and draft power for plant source food, as well as income to buy food and health care. At the same time, livestock can lead to poor health if animal source foods contribute to poor diet and through providing a reservoir for diseases infectious to people (zoonoses). The relationship between livestock, human nutrition and human health are complex, with multiple synergistic and antagonistic links . . . . For example, poor livestock keepers worldwide face daily trade-offs between selling their (relatively expensive) milk, meat and eggs to increase their household income and consuming the same (high-quality) foods to increase their household nutrition. Because animal source foods are so dense in nutrients, including micronutrients that help prevent ‘hidden hunger’, decisions in these matters have potentially large implications for the nutritional and economic health of households. Livestock contributes to food security and nutrition in various ways.’

‘In poor countries, infectious disease still accounts for around 40% of the health burden in terms of years lost through sickness and death (WHO 2008). Livestock directly contribute to this through the foodborne diseases transmitted through animal source foods, the zoonoses transmissible between livestock and people, and human diseases emerging from livestock. A recent estimate suggests that 12% of the infectious disease burden in least developed countries is due to zoonoses, and the majority of this is transmitted to people from livestock hosts through consumption of animal source foods, vectors or direct contact (Grace et al. 2012). More indirectly, keeping of livestock affects agro-ecosystems in ways that influence their ability to provide health-provisioning services. This may be positive or negative. In some circumstances, livestock act as a buffer, for example, between trypanosomosis-carrying tsetse or malaria-carrying mosquitoes and people; in this case, livestock act as alternative hosts, effectively protecting people. In other cases, livestock are an amplifying host, for example pigs harbouring and multiplying Japanese encephalitis and thus increasing the risk it poses to people.’

  • Food-borne disease is the world’s most common illness and is most commonly manifested as gastrointestinal disease; diarrhoea is one of the top three infectious diseases in most developing countries, killing an estimated 1.4 million children a year (Black et al. 2010).
  • In countries where good data exist, zoonotic pathogens are among the most important causes of food-borne disease (Thorns 2000, Schlundt et al. 2004).
  • Animal-source food is the most risky of food commodities (Lynch et al. 2006), with meat and milk providing excellent mediums for microbial growth.
  • Most human diseases come from animals, with some 61% being ‘zoonotic’, or transmissible between animals and humans, including many of the most important causes of sickness and death.
  • Endemic zoonoses that prevail in poor countries are among the most neglected diseases.
  • Zoonoses (diseases transmissible between animals and man) and diseases recently emerged from animals (mostly human immunodeficiency virus [HIV]-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) make up 25% of the infectious disease burden in the least developed countries (Gilbert et al. 2010).
  • Currently, one new disease is emerging every four months, and 75% of these originate in animals (Jones et al. 2008).

‘The impacts of livestock on the environment have received considerable attention as the publication of the Livestock’s Long Shadow study (Steinfeld et al. 2006). This study helped draw attention to the magnitude and scale of livestock’s impact on land use, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollution among others, and it created a thrust for the sector’s stakeholders to develop research agendas geared towards generating better data for the environmental assessment of global livestock systems, and to develop solutions for mitigating environmental livestock problems, and policy agendas more conducive to a greening of the sector by promoting regulation, increases in efficiency and others.’

Land: For grazing or fodder?

  • Livestock systems are one of the main users of land; livestock use some 3.4 billion ha for grazing and 0.5 million ha of cropland for the production of feeds (33% of arable land), globally (Steinfeld et al. 2006).
  • Of the world’s 3.4 billion ha of grazing lands, 2.3 million ha (67%) are in the developing world, with expansion of pastureland at the expense of natural habitats in the developing world in the order of 330 million ha in the last 40 years (FAO 2009).
  • The world will require an additional 450 million tonnes of grain to meet demand for animal products by 2050 (Rosegrant et al. 2009).

Climate change: Decrease livestock numbers or increase livestock efficiencies? (or both?)

  • Livestock are an important contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions causing global warming; current estimates range from 8.5% to 18% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (O’Mara 2011), with the range reflecting methodological differences (inventories v. life cycle assessment), attribution of emissions to land use (Herrero et al. 2011, O’Mara 2011) and uncertainty in parameter values (FAO 2010).
  • Livestock in the developing world contribute 50% to 65% of the total emissions from livestock in the world. (Herrero et al. 2013).
  • The higher the productivity of farm animals, the lower the emissions per unit of their products (FAO 2010).
  • While livestock systems in general terms generate significantly more greenhouse gas emissions per kilocalorie than crops, the potential for the livestock sector to mitigate such emissions is very large (1.74 Gt CO2-eq per year, Smith et al. 2007), with land-use management practices representing over 80% of this potential (Smith et al. 2007) and with most of the mitigation potential (70%) lying in the developing world (Smith et al. 2007).

Livestock manure: Waste or resource?

  • Livestock wastes—considered a serious problem in the developed world—are a critical agricultural resource in large parts of Africa, where soils are inherently poor (Petersen et al. 2007, Rufino et al. 2007).
  • Manure contributes between 12% and 24% of the nitrogen input in nitrogen cycles in cropland in the developing world (Liu et al. 2010).
  • Recycling of animal manures is practiced in most mixed crop-livestock systems, although efficiencies are rarely close to those of the developed world (Rufino et al. 2006).
  • Synthetic fertilizers are unaffordable for most small-scale farmers, who depend on the (poor) fertility of their soils to produce food crops, or on livestock to concentrate nutrients from the relatively large grazing lands (Herrero et al. 2013).
  • In many farming systems, the production of food crops directly relies on animal manures to increase effectiveness of fertilizers applied to cropland (Vanlauwe and Giller 2006).
  • Although animal manure can be a very effective soil amendment, its availability at the farm level is often very limited, so designing technologies for soil fertility restoration only around the use of animal manure is unrealistic.

Payments for environmental services: Exclude or include livestock keepers?

  • Despite the fact that livestock is widely distributed in virtually all agro-ecosystems of the developing world, few ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes have targeted livestock keepers; most have focused on such services as climate, water and wildlife (Landell-Mills and Porras 2002, Wunder 2005).
  • Enhancing the role that rangelands play in maintaining ecosystem services through improved rangeland management could be of essential importance for enhancing global green water cycles (Rockström et al. 2007).
  • In Africa, where close to half of the pastoralists earn less than US$1/day, it’s estimated that even modest improvements in natural resource management in the drylands may yield gains of 0.5 t C/ha per year, which translates into US$50/year, bringing about a 14% increase in income for the pastoralist (Reid et al. 2004).

Read the whole paper
The roles of livestock in developing countries, by ILRI authors Mario Herrero, Delia Grace, Jemimah Njuki, Nancy Johnson, Dolapo Enahoro, Silvi Silvestri and Mariana Rufino, Animal (2013), 7:s1, pp 3–18 & The Animal Consortium 2012, doi:10.1017/S1751731112001954

Read related articles
Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act—and a balanced account, 3 Apr 2012
Taking the long livestock view, 23 Jan 2013
Greening the livestock sector, 22 Jan 2013
Livestock livelihoods for the poor: Beyond meat, milk and eggs, 8 Jan 2013
A fine balancing act will be needed for livestock development in a changing world, 7 Dec 2012
Fewer, better fed, animals good for the world’s climate and the world’s poor, 22 Nov 2012
Scientific assessments needed by a global livestock sector facing increasingly hard trade-offs, 12 Jul 2013.
A new global alliance for a safer, fairer and more sustainable livestock sector, 13 Apr 2012
Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda, 20 Mar 2012
Towards a more coherent narrative for the global livestock sector, 15 Mar 2012
Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012

This paper is an ILRI output of two CGIAR Research Programs: Livestock and Fish and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.

Livestock, poverty and the environment: A balancing act–and a balanced account

Worldmapper: Meat consumed

Territory size shows the proportion of worldwide meat consumption that occurs there (map by Worldmapper). Meat consumption per person is highest in Western Europe, with nine of the top ten meat-consuming populations living in Western Europe (the tenth in this ranking is New Zealand). The most meat is consumed in China, where a fifth of the world population lives.

Authors of a new paper setting out the roles of livestock in developing countries argue that although providing a ‘balanced account’ of livestock’s roles entails something of a ‘balancing act’, we had better get on with it if we want to build global food, economic and environmental security.

‘The importance of this paper lies in providing a balanced account [for] . . .  the often, ill-informed or generalized discussion on the . . .  roles of livestock. Only by understanding the nuances in these roles will we be able to design more sustainable solutions for the sector.

‘We are at a moment in time where our actions could be decisive for the resilience of the world food system, the environment and a billion poor people in the developing world . . . . At the same time, . . . the demand for livestock products is increasing, . . . adding additional pressures on the world natural resources.

Not surprisingly, the world is asking a big question: what should we do about livestock?

The paper, by scientists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), provides ‘a sophisticated and disaggregated answer’.

‘The sector is large. There are 17 billion animals in the world eating, excreting and using substantial amounts of natural resources, mostly in the developing world, where most of the growth of the sector will occur. The roles of livestock in the developing world are many . . . . [L]ivestock can be polluters in one place, whereas in another they provide vital nutrients for supporting crop production.’

The picture is complex. Whether for its positive or negative roles, livestock are in the spotlight. . . . [M]aking broad generalizations about the livestock sector [is] useless (and dangerous) for informing the current global debates on food security and the environment.

So what are these ‘nuanced, scientifically informed messages about livestock’s roles’ that the authors say are essential? Well, here are a few, but it is recommended that interested readers read the paper itself to get a sense of the whole, complicated, picture.

In a nutshell (taken from the paper’s conclusion), the authors say that ‘weighing the roles that livestock play in the developing world’ is a ‘complex balancing act’.

On the one hand, we acknowledge that livestock is an important contributor to the economies of developing nations, to the incomes and livelihoods of millions of poor and vulnerable producers and consumers, and it is an important source of nourishment. On the other side of the equation, the sector [is a] . . . large user of land and water, [a] notorious GHG [greenhouse gas] emitter, a reservoir of disease, [and a] source of nutrients at times, polluter at others . . . .

‘Against this dichotomy, [this] is a sector that could improve its environmental performance significantly . . . .’

This paper argues that we will help ensure poor decision-making in the livestock sector if we do the following.

Continue to ignore the inequities inherent
in the debate on whether or not to eat meat
‘This debate translates into poor food choices v. the food choices of the poor [and remains] dominated by the concerns of the developed world, [whose over-consumers of livestock and other foods] . . . should reduce the consumption of animal products as a health measure. However, the debate needs to increase in sophistication so that the poor and undernourished are not the victims of generalisations that may translate into policies or reduced support for the livestock sector in parts of the world where the multiple benefits of livestock outweigh the problems it causes.’

Take as given the projected trajectories of animal
consumption proposed by the ‘livestock revolution’
These trajectories ‘are not inevitable. Part of our responsibility is to challenge these future trajectories, and ensure that we identify levels of consumption and nutritional diversity for different parts of the world that will achieve the best compromise between a healthy diet that includes livestock products (or not), economic growth, livelihoods and livestock’s impacts on the environment. No mean feat, but certainly a crucial area of research.’

Continue to promote large-scale consolidated farms over efficient
and market-oriented smallholders as engines for feeding the world
‘Advocates of large-scale farming argue in favour of the higher efficiencies of resource use often found in these systems and how simple it is to disseminate technology and effect technological change. True, when the market economy is working.’ Not true when the market economy is not working. Investment in developing efficient value chains is essential ‘to create incentives for smallholders to integrate in the market economy, formal or informal.’

Continue to hurt the competitiveness
of the smallholder livestock sector
‘Formal and informal markets will need to ensure the supply of cheaper, locally produced, safe livestock products to adequately compete. This implies a significant reduction in transaction costs for the provision of inputs, increased resource use efficiencies, and very responsive, innovative and supporting institutions for the livestock sector in developing countries (FAO, 2009).

Continue to give lip service to paying for environmental services—
and continue to ignore livestock keepers as targets of these services
‘Proofs of concept that test how these schemes could operate in very fragmented systems, with multiple users of the land or in communal pastoral areas, are necessary. Research on fair, equitable and robust monitoring and evaluation frameworks and mechanisms for effecting payments schemes that work under these conditions is necessary. The promise of PES [payment for environmental services] schemes as a means to . . . produce food while protecting the world’s ecosystems is yet to be seen on a large scale.’

Don’t help small-scale livestock farmers and herders
adapt to climate change or help mitigate global warming
In a low carbon economy, and as the global food system prepares to become part of the climate change negotiations, ‘it will be essential that the livestock sector mitigate GHG [greenhouse gas emissions] effectively in relation to other sectors. Demonstrating that these options are real, with tangible examples, is essential . . . .’

Don’t modify institutions and markets to reach smallholders—
and continue to ignore women livestock producers
‘Underinvestment in extension systems and other support services has rendered poor producers disenfranchised to access support systems necessary for increasing productivity and efficiency’ or safety nets. Increased public investment in innovation and support platforms to link the poor, and especially women, to markets is essential.

Continue to protect global environmental goods
at the expense of local livelihoods of the poor
‘. . . [S]tern public opinion in favour of protecting global environmental goods, instead of local livelihoods, could create an investment climate’ that hurts smallholder farmers. The informal and formal retail sectors must ‘gain consumers trust as safe providers of livestock products for urban and rural consumers’.

Bottom line: Need for nuanced information / narratives / approaches
The authors conclude their paper with a plea for greater tolerance for ambiguity and diversity rather than fixed ideas, and a greater appetite for accurate and location-specific information rather than simplistic generalities.

Balancing the multiple roles of livestock in the developing world and contrasting them with those in the developed world is not simple.

‘The disaggregated evidence by region, species, production system, value chain, etc. needs to be generated. Messages need to be well distilled, backed by scientific evidence and well articulated to avoid making generalisations that more often than not confuse the picture and ill-inform policy. Livestock’s roles are simply not the same everywhere.

The roles, whether good or bad, need to be accepted by the scientific community.

‘Research agendas need to use the livestock bads as opportunities for improvement, while continuing to foster the positive aspects. These are essential ingredients for society to make better-informed choices about the future roles of livestock in sustainable food production, economic growth and poverty alleviation.’

Access the full paper
The roles of livestock in developing countries, by ILRI authors Mario Herrero, Delia Grace, Jemimah Njuki, Nancy Johnson, Dolapo Enahoro, Silvi Silvestri and Mariana Rufino, Animal (2013), 7:s1, pp 3–18.

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This paper is an ILRI output of two CGIAR Research Programs: Livestock and Fish and Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security.