Planet under pressure / Where’s the beef?

Curious Cows

‘The children of the corn’ (photo on Flickr by Andrés Thor).

Conspicuous by its absence at the recent Planet Under Pressure (PUP) conference in London (26–29 Mar 2012) was the topic of livestock production. While several presenters, panel members and other delegates did mention in passing the need to cut back on meat consumption to save the planet from the emissions of greenhouse gases generated in the production of meat, there was scarce mention of the 1.3 billion people who rely on livestock for their livelihoods or the nearly 1 billion people who are undernourished, or the fact that livestock production contributes up to 50 per cent of the gross domestic product of poor countries, or that global meat demand is expected to far outstrip that of grain, growing by 40 per cent by 2025.

Livestock are the backbone of small-scale agriculture and economic development throughout the developing world, helping poor households and communities endure shocks such as drought and price fluctuations; and providing them with manure to fertilize soils and traction to pull ploughs; high-quality foods they can either consume or sell; rural and peri-urban jobs and livelihoods; and a regular cash income from sales of milk and eggs and surplus stock with which to pay for medical bills, children’s school fees and other essentials.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that raising and selling livestock also carries risks and causes harm. Here, for example, is a statement from Livestock’s Long Shadow, the rather famous (in agricultural development circles) report of a study published in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):

The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock’s contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.’ — Livestock’s Long Shadow, FAO, 2006.

Despite livestock issues having been at the centre of public debates about livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’, especially since Livestock’s Long Shadow came out, with its report that livestock production comprises 18 per cent of the greenhouse gasses generated by humankind, the problematic (and often impassioned) livestock topic was hardly raised at PUP. (One panel session was scheduled for this topic, but an emergency prevented some of the panel members from attending the conference and the session was cancelled.) That’s a shame, since many of PUP’s nearly 3,000 delegates have the kind of scientific training to have tackled global livestock ‘goods’ and ‘bads’ with dispassion, evidence and credibility.

It will be interesting to see if this topic is seen to merit attention at the, much larger, Rio+20 sustainable development conference this June.

What do you think? Are livestock issues of sufficient import to justify their inclusion in presentations and discussions at Rio+20? Please post your thoughts in the Comments box.

To read some of ILRI’s views on the livestock goods and bads debates, visit this Pinterest page, where several ILRI articles on the subject are posted.

Read more about the Planet Under Pressure conference on the ILRI News Blog
Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / A numbers game–but which numbers are the numbers that matter?, 26 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Food security policy brief, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / ‘Get out of the nerd loop’–NYT environmental reporter, 27 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Agriculture (finally) at the global change table, 28 Mar 2012.

Planet under pressure / Navigating the Anthropocene, 29 Mar 2012.

Sharing the space: Seven livestock leaders speak out on a global agenda

Those interested in the future of the livestock sector—particularly in its potential to help alleviate world poverty and hunger without harming human health and the environment—will want to watch this 10-minute film of brief comments made by seven leaders in livestock development thinking. These comments were captured at the end of a recent (12–15 Mar 2012) ‘High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020’, which was co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and held at ILRI’s headquarters, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The seven participants interviewed are (1) Francois Le Gall, co-host of this consultation and livestock advisor at the World Bank; (2) Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO); (3) Kristin Girvetz, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; (4) Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); (5) Boni Moyo, ILRI representative for southern Africa; (6) Carlos Seré, chief development strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); and (7) Jimmy Smith, co-host of this event and director general of ILRI.

Eight other leaders in global livestock issues took part in last week’s consultation in Nairobi:

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

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

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

UN (United Nations): 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

Read more about this consultation on this ILRI News Blog: Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012.

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr

Towards a more coherent narrative for the global livestock sector

Jimmy Smith and Henning Steinfeld (FAO)

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith (left) and FAO’s Henning Steinfeld confer at a high-level consultation for a global livestock agenda to 2020 at ILRI’s Nairobi campus this week.

High-level leaders in the livestock world have agreed on major ways to fulfill on an ambitious global livestock agenda to 2020 that would work simultaneously to protect the environment, human health and socioeconomic equity. The heads of ten agencies met earlier this week in Nairobi to hammer out the outlines of a consensus on strategies for a global livestock agenda to 2020. This High-Level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020 was co-hosted by the World Bank and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Three ‘pillars’ for the future of livestock were discussed: the environment, human health and social equity.

Henning Steinfeld, chief of livestock information and policy analysis at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), gave a presentation on the livestock-environment interfaceGlobal environmental challenges [and livestock].

Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), spoke on issues at the livestock-human health interfaceGlobal animal health challenges: The health pillar.

Carlos Seré, chief development strategist at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), described livestock and equity issuesGlobal poverty and food security challenges: The equity pillar.

A major issue raised repeatedly throughout the 1.5-day consultation was the need to work in closer partnership not only to create synergies in institutional work programs but also to begin creating a more coherent narrative for the livestock sector. This new narrative is needed, it was said, both for some simple messaging to counter misunderstandings about the essential role livestock play in the lives and livelihoods of one billion poor people (e.g., dairying in poor countries feeds hungry children and pays for their schooling) and for more nuanced communications that help decision-makers and their constituencies better distinguish among livestock production systems, which vary vastly according, for example, to the different species kept (e.g., the rearing of pigs vs goats vs chickens), the environments in which the animals are raised (remote mountains vs fertile plains vs dry grasslands) and the particular livestock production system being employed (pastoral herding vs mixed smallholder farming vs industrial farming).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Topic 1

François Le Gall (World Bank)

François Le Gall, senior livestock advisor at the World Bank, co-hosted an ILRI-World Bank High-Level Consultation on the Global Livestock Agenda by 2020, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 12-13 Mar 2012 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 3

World Bank's Stephane Forman and François Le Gall

Stephane Forman (left) and François Le Gall, both livestock experts at the World Bank (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 4

ILRI animal health scientist Jeff Mariner

ILRI animal health scientist Jeff Mariner led discussions of one of several working groups at the consultation (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 7

Carlos Seré (IFAD) and Baba Soumare (AU-IBAR)

IFAD’s Carlos Seré (left) and Baba Soumare (centre), chief animal health officer at AU-IBAR (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 8

Walter Masiga and Bernard Vallet (OIE)

Walter Masiga and Bernard Vallet of the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE) (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 9

Kristin Girvetz, Gates Foundation

Kristin Girvetz, program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

2012 ILRI-World Bank Livestock Agenda to 2020: Card 13

In total, 14 leaders in global livestock issues took part in this week’s Nairobi consultation:

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

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

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

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

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

ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute)
Jimmy Smith, director general (co-host)

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

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

World Bank
Francois Le Gall, livestock advisor at the World Bank (co-host)
Stephane Forman, livestock specialist for Africa

Read more about this consultation on this ILRI News Blog: Developing an enabling global livestock agenda for our lives, health and lands, 13 Mar 2012.

View pictures of the event on ILRI Flickr.

 

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.

Researchers strengthen their partnerships in the fight against Rift Valley fever

Typical mixed crop-livestock farming of western Kenya

A mixed crop-livestock farm in Western Kenya. Livestock researchers are working towards joint efforts of preventing and controlling Rift Valley fever in eastern Africa (photo credit: ILRI/Charlie Pye-Smith).

A new effort to align the work of partners in eastern Africa and implement more synergetic research on Rift Valley fever was the focus of a recent multi-stakeholder workshop that reviewed research strategies and approaches used by veterinarians, epidemiologists, economists and public health experts in projects across Kenya.

The meeting, which was held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 2 February 2012, discussed ILRI’s Rift Valley fever research program, potential collaborations with partners and options of controlling the mosquito-borne viral disease that affects cattle herds in eastern and southern Africa. Epidemics of the disease, which can also infect humans, emerge after above-average and widespread rainfall and lead to death and abortion in livestock.

Participating organizations, which are conducting research on Rift Valley fever, included Kenya’s ministries in charge of livestock development and public health, the universities of Nairobi and Egerton, Kenya Agricultural Research Institute and Kenya Medical Research Institute. Also attending the workshop were staff of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the Nairobi office of the US Centres for Disease Control and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

‘Our research in Rift Valley fever is benefitting from increasing collaboration,’ said Bernard Bett, an epidemiologist with ILRI. ‘These “joined up” efforts, are supporting joint assessments of the prevalence of zoonotic diseases in both animals and humans and are helping to increase the relevance of the research leading to more effective interventions.’

This strategy should lead to lower costs of doing research and implementing human and animal health interventions and a reduced burden of Rift Valley fever on the region’s livestock, people, wildlife and markets.

Esther Schelling, a epidemiologist with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and formerly a researcher with ILRI, said: ‘Collaborative efforts in addressing the challenge of Rift Valley fever can support “one health” initiatives that seek to raise the research profile of neglected zoonotic diseases in Africa and improve the effectiveness of interventions through joint surveillance, preparedness and contingency planning to reduce the amount of time it takes to control outbreaks of these diseases.’

During the meeting, ILRI shared findings from a collaborative project known as ‘Enhancing prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in East Africa by inter-sectorial assessment of control options.’ For example, an analysis, by the project, of the public health burden of Rift Valley fever outbreaks measured in disability adjusted live years (DALYs) – the first of its kind in Kenya – shows that the 2006 and 2007 outbreak resulted in 3.4 DALYs per 1000 people and household costs of about Ksh 10,000 (USD120) for every human case reported. In 2008, ILRI estimated the disease cost the Kenyan economy USD30 million. Findings from the project also included a dynamic herd model developed for pastoral systems for simulating herd dynamics during normal and drought periods and in Rift Valley fever outbreaks. This model will be used to simulate the impacts of prevention and control options for the disease.

The Nairobi meeting discussed gaps in current research practice including the absence of climate models, sampling tools and methods to support decision support tools. Participants highlighted the need for a vector profile of the disease to enable mapping of most affected and high-risk areas and the need to understand how Rift Valley fever interacts between livestock and wildlife.

The prevention and control options discussed at the meeting will be further simulated using the herd dynamic model, which will be followed by an economic analysis using a process that was agreed on in an earlier (September 2011) workshop that discussed Rift Valley fever surveillance. A cost-benefit analysis of vaccination, vector control, surveillance, and sanitary measures is now scheduled. Results from the analysis will give much-needed evidence to support creation of policies and strategies for appropriate surveillance, prevention and control of Rift Valley fever in eastern Africa.

According to Tabitha Kimani, an agricultural economist with ILRI, ‘preliminary cost benefit analysis is already showing that it is beneficial to control Rift Valley fever through vaccination.’

 

Read more on Rift Valley fever research at ILRI and the region:

ILRI news archive

http://www.ilri.org/ilrinews/index.php?s=%22Rift+Valley+fever%22&submit=Search

ILRI clippings archive

http://ilriclippings.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/could-rift-valley-fever-be-a-weapon-of-mass-destruction-an-insidious-insect-animal-people-infection-loop-explored/

 

 

 

‘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.

Raising incomes in India through better markets for goat and sheep meat, leather and wool

 The Goat Herd, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1862 (source: Wikipaintings.org).

This business of goats—
Sometimes it flourishes,
Sometimes it yields only a handful of chickpeas,
And sometimes even that is denied.

An interesting new report on Small Ruminant Rearing: Product Markets, Opportunities and Constraints makes a strong argument for enhancing the value chains of India’s meat, leather and wool industries to reduce poverty levels among the country’s many sheep and goat rearers, who make up 15% of all rural households in the country and most of whom (70%) are small and marginal farmers and landless labourers.

The report was published in Dec 2011 by the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, a joint initiative of India’s National Dairy Development Programme (NDDB) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The report was developed by Varsha Mehta, a consultant working with this South Asia livestock program, who spent six months (Nov 2010–Apr 2011) gathering information in extensive field visits and discussions with practitioners and communities rearing small ruminants in various states of the country.

Some the key findings, appearing in report’s the executive summary, are summarized below.

Sheep and goat ownership
With 15% of the world’s goat population and 6% of its sheep, India is among the highest livestock holding countries in the world. As of 2009, its estimated sheep and goat population was 191.7 million, comprising 10% of the world total.

Most of India’s goats (70%) are found in just 7 of the country’s 28 states (West Bengal, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh) and 72% of the sheep population is concentrated in just 4 states (Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu).

Although total numbers of such small stock have been rising in the country, average numbers per household have been falling, by about 25%—from 85 to 64 per 100 households—in the 11 years between 1991/2 and 2002/3.

The ownership and distribution of small ruminants in the country appears to be more equitable than that of land.

Policy issues and recommendations
Livestock rearing in the country has been primarily for livelihood security and not for commercial purposes, with ownership being more evenly distributed vis-à-vis land and other resources; animals are a hedge and insurance against natural calamities, droughts, etc., and animal husbandry is frequently one of the many occupations in a household’s livelihood strategy.

However, the commercialization of livestock is on the rise as a result of market developments and fiscal incentives, and an increasing demand for animal protein in the consumer market. A gradual shift is occurring towards intensively managed ram lamb/sheep units, particularly in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, which is being led and/or facilitated by animal health professionals, state veterinary departments and financial institutions.

India’s single-minded pursuit of agricultural enhancement at all costs has harmed its animal husbandry. Government-planned and -sponsored schemes for intensifying agricultural production systems through land development and irrigation have led to a rapid loss of lands available for grazing sheep and goats, declining land and soil productivity, greater reliance on chemical fertilizers and higher costs of agriculture inputs. With the loss of grazing lands, flock sizes have decreased, with, for example, the average flock size in the ‘shepherd belt’ of Rajasthan declining from 200–300 to 60–70 sheep over a period of 10 years. The numbers of keepers of small stock have also declined, with many former shepherds and goat rearers now working as daily wage labourers.

Another threat to India’s small stock keepers are high levels of livestock diseases and deaths due to state veterinary health services and facilities unable to meet the veterinary demands of local and migrant graziers, breeders, rearers and shepherds.

Small ruminant meat
Prioritize the meat value chain
With an estimated 25,000 unauthorized slaughter locations and 4,000 registered slaughterhouses, India’s meat trade is highly unorganized and largely unregulated, having remained a low priority sector until the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007–12), when incentives were provided to industries to boost investment for modernization, value addition and infrastructure development.

The many entities responsible for licensing, regulating and controlling quality in the meat processing and export sectors lead to inefficiencies, and the mechanisms in place are largely ineffectual and the institutions involved largely under-resourced.

Although India’s meat market is predominantly a ‘wet market’ (dealing in live animals), knowledge of, and adherence to, food safety standards and regulations are greatly lacking, which poses the threat of infectious and other diseases erupting among livestock populations and some of them (zooneses) being transmitted between livestock and people.

Create more equitable livestock markets
India’s small ruminant markets favour brokers and other intermediaries to the disadvantage of consumers, rearers and sellers of livestock by-products.

A large part of the consumer’s costs are due to inefficient slaughter operations and markets and high transportation costs. Inefficient use of small ruminant by-products means the rearers get poor prices for their animals.

New players face barriers in entering the market and robust agents’ networks and strong resistance to government attempts to introduce change hamper the modernization or relocation of abattoirs.

Create value addition along the value chain
The non-standardized, unregulated and ad hoc transactions typical of India’s small ruminant trade lead to unfair practices. For example, animals are sold purely on the basis of a visual estimation of their weight, age and appearance, and female animals get lower prices than males in meat markets, even though no such distinction is made in the final price of meat sold in retail outlets. And although sheep fetch a lower price than goats, sheep meat is frequently passed off as goat meat in New Delhi.

With India’s small ruminant market remaining predominantly a wet market, given the preference of the Indian consumer for fresh meat over frozen or processed meat, little value addition takes place along the chain from producer to consumer although the price of the commodity rises at every level.

Fully utilize ruminant by-products
Whereas the blood, head, legs and offals of slaughtered sheep and goats are often sold near slaughterhouses in terminal markets and at village butchers’ shops, full potential of the by-products’ (skin, casings, bones, blood and other waste) is not realized in the country.

Bring the market closer to the production base
By bringing the market closer to the production base, it would be possible to address many problems that plague efficient operations in the meat industry. The terminal markets in all cities are constrained on account of space and municipal requirements for waste disposal. Both these issues could be addressed at the district level through appropriate site selection, long-term planning, and establishment of effluent treatment plants. District-level livestock trade centres would also be more accessible to producers, and lower the costs of transporting live animals, which are often transported in poor conditions across long distances and suffer poor lairing at terminal markets before their slaughter.

Small ruminant leather
Support smallholder production and collection of leather for a fast-growing industrial sector
While most of the leather industry’s units are small and medium enterprises, with 60–65% of the production coming from small/cottage sectors, the industrial structure, which till now has been mostly unorganized and decentralized, is gearing up fast in response to international market demand and a changing policy environment.

The gains that the leather industry has made over the years, due to favourable government policies and growth in international markets, have not trickled down to the players operating at lower levels in the leather value chain. And developments in the processing and manufacturing sectors are not accompanied by corresponding developments in raw material production and collection methods, which continue to be highly scattered and unorganized.

Enhance the supply of raw leather
Too little raw material, and material of poor quality, due to inappropriate methods of procurement of raw hides and skins, and their flaying and curing, are hurting India’s leather sector.

Losses from putrefaction and low-quality raw material could be addressed through worker collectives established close to the source of production, which could reduce the time lag between removal of skin and its (temporary) curing for preservation. Apart from the cost of inputs for treatment (salt) and storage (warehouse), the only other costs would be those of labour and the initial investment in organizing and establishing the collective. This small intervention in the leather value chain could go a long way in resolving higher end problems, as well as providing employment for many poor people.

Provide human resources for labour- and skill-intensive operations
Operations in leather processing and finishing are labour-intensive except in the initial stages, with the costs of labour rising as the product moves along the value chain. In many attempts to promote its leather industry, India has focussed on manufacturing and finished goods to the exclusion of all other aspects, such as procuring hides and skins and/or improving slaughterhouse practices, both of which could add significantly to the quality and availability of raw material.

Trained human resources are in short supply.

Small ruminant wool
Protect grazing lands
The entire production system that supports India’s wool industry is crippled by a loss of grazing lands and reduced flock sizes. In Himachal Pradesh, graziers since the British times have been issued permits for grazing their herds, with migratory routes and numbers specified in the permit issued by the Forest Department. A specified fee per animal is charged per season. Over the years, there has been a restriction on the issuance of new permits, and the common practice now is for herds to be taken for migration by (existing) permit-holders on a contractual basis. Grazing grounds/pastures have also shrunk and degraded with the spread of weeds, which can also cause of high mortality, particularly in younger livestock.

Support local wool markets
Since changes in India’s import policies and licenses took effect, the markets have been flooded with products made of imported wool. The rising costs incurred by shepherds in rearing sheep and shearing their wool are not matched by a corresponding rise in returns from wool. Loss of markets for traditionally valued products have caused a loss in demand for local wool. A revival of the local wool markets is possible only through revival of Khadi institutions, as well as significant and sustained investments in R&D of products made out of local wool.

Improve sheep breeds
Only a small proportion of sheep (10–15%) have been crossbred. State-led initiatives for breed improvement have focused on the production of finer quality wool through crossing indigenous breeds with imported breeds such as the Merino and Rambouillet. The crossbreeding programs face two main problems: crossbred sheep have higher mortality levels than native sheep because they are unable to withstand the nutritional stress and difficult terrain/conditions; and the crossbreeding program has not yet led to the production of significant quantities of superior wools. Some scientists say there is a lack of high-quality germplasm available for improving wool quality and yield.

Read the whole report:  Small Ruminant Rearing: Product Markets, Opportunities and Constraints, South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme, Dec 2011.

Notes
A year-old project on ‘Small ruminant value chains as platforms for reducing poverty and increasing food security in the dryland areas of India and Mozambique’, known as ‘imGoats’ for short, seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in India and Mozambique. The main target groups are poor goat keepers, especially women, and other marginalized groups, such as scheduled castes and tribes in India, households with members living with HIV/AIDS and female-headed households in Mozambique. The project is led by researchers from the Market, Gender and Livelihoods Theme of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International, Mozambique. It is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The goal of the imGoats Project is to increase incomes and food security in a sustainable manner by enhancing small ruminant value chains in the two countries. The project proposes to transform goat production and marketing from the current ad hoc, risky, informal activity to a sound and profitable enterprise and model that taps into a growing market, largely controlled by and benefiting women and other disadvantaged and vulnerable groups while preserving the natural resource base.

The project established a strategic advisory committee at the national level in each of the project countries. In India, the South Asia Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Programme (SAPPLPP) is one of seven agencies represented on this committee; the others are the Animal Husbandry Departments of Governments of India, Rajasthan and Jharkhand; IFAD; BAIF; and ILRI. The first national advisory committee meeting of the imGoats project in India was held on the 17 Aug 2011 in New Delhi; it meets every six months, with its next meeting scheduled for 10–11 Feb 2012, in Udaipur and Jhadol.

For more information, visit ILRI’s imGoats Blog.

New study says livestock production provides Kenya with 43% of agricultural GDP

Collecting milk in Kenya's informal market

Collecting milk in Kenya’s informal market (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

Do estimates of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) of African nations really underestimate the value of the contribution from the livestock sector, as livestock specialists at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and elsewhere frequently complain? In Kenya and Ethiopia, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.

A new study by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Livestock Policy Initiative (LPI), which worked with national partners, concludes that livestock’s contribution to Kenya’s agricultural GDP is a whopping two and a half times larger than the official estimate for 2009. An earlier IGAD study concluded that livestock’s contribution to Ethiopia’s agricultural GDP has been even more dramatically under-reported; livestock’s contribution is now being estimated at three and a half times larger than that of the last official estimate available.

In Kenya, ‘This increase of 150% over official estimates means that the livestock contribution to agricultural GDP is only slightly less than that from arable agriculture, i.e. 320 billion Kenyan shillings for livestock (about $4.21 billion US dollars in 2009) versus 399 billion Kenyan shillings for crops and horticulture (in 2009 roughly $5.25 billion US dollars). . . .

‘According to the revised estimates, milk is Kenya’s most economically important livestock product, providing a little less than three quarters of the total gross value of livestock’s contribution to the agricultural sector. In terms of its contribution to agricultural GDP, milk is about four times more important than meat.

‘Cattle are Kenya’s most important source of red meat, supplying by value about 80% of the nation’s ruminant offtake for slaughter. More than 80% of the beef consumed in Kenya is produced by pastoralists, either domestically or in neighbouring countries and then imported on the hoof, often unofficially.’

In addition, the broad range of benefits rural food producers derive from livestock keeping—including manure for fertilizing crop field, traction for pulling ploughs, and serving as a means of savings and credit and insurance—represent about 11% of the value of the livestock contribution to GDP in Kenya and more than 50% in Ethiopia.

‘The conclusion to be drawn from this study is that Kenya’s livestock are economically much more important than hitherto believed; in fact, only marginally less than crops and horticulture combined. Agriculture and forestry are by far Kenya’s most important economic sector in terms of domestic production and it would now appear that livestock provide about 43% of the output from this sector. . . .’

We link here to the whole policy brief from the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Livestock Policy Initiative (LPI – IGAD LPI website). The brief was based on working paper by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and IGAD: The Contribution of Livestock to the Kenyan Economy, No. 03-2011, by Roy Behnke and David Muthami.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 of the earlier IGAD LPI working papers on Ethiopia (also a policy brief).

More on getting credible figures for livestock emissions of greenhouse gases

Cover of recommendations produced Nov 2011 by CCAFS/Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, an initiative of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), is identifying policy changes and actions needed to help the world achieve food security in the face of climate change; the Commission launched this summary for policymakers on 16 Nov 2011 (photo on cover by Neil Palmer/CIAT).

The current issue of New Scientist publishes an article describing a recently released study, ‘Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change’, which was commissioned by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research). For more on that study, see the CCAFS news release of 16 November 2011: ‘Global Commission Charts Pathway for Achieving Food Security in Face of Climate Change‘.

Sujata Gupta’s New Scientist article on meat consumption, ‘Just how much meat can eco-citizens eat?’ (online publication date: 16 November 2011; print issue date: 19 November 2011; print issue number: 2839), contains what we believe is a factual error. Gupta quotes a 2007 article in the Lancet (‘Food, livestock production, energy, climate change, and health’, doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61256-2) that 80% of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions come from meat production.

More credible figures, compiled from international global assessments by agricultural systems analyst Mario Herrero and his colleagues at the International Livestock Research Institute, are the following.

The total agricultural sector emits around 25–32% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Crops emit 14% (EPA 2006) and all livestock emit 11–18%, depending on how emissions are attributed (FAO 2006, EPA 2006, PBL 2010). The emissions from livestock can be divided roughly as 30% methane from enteric fermentation, 30% nitrous oxide from manure management and 40% from carbon dioxide from land-use changes for grazing and feed production (FAO 2006). Figures for the emissions from land-use changes carry a lot of uncertainty. Emissions can also be divided by species and product. For example, the dairy sector is responsible for roughly 27% of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock (FAO 2010) while monogastric production (pigs/poultry) is responsible for  10–20% of the livestock emissions. Hence, it is not possible that beef production can account for 80% of all agricultural emissions. Even if beef cattle represent 50–60% of livestock emissions, this translates roughly into a figure close to 30–35% of all agricultural emissions—certainly not 80%. What is true is that of all livestock products, beef is the most inefficient in terms of greenhouse gas emissions produced per unit of product, especially compared to dairy and monogastrics (De Vries and de Boer 2010).

Herrero and his colleagues at ILRI, CCAFS and elsewhere are publishing updates on topics concerning livestock production and climate and other kinds of global change. Look out, for example, for the following book chapter, due next month, which we will report on in this blog: M Herrero, PK Thornton, P Havlík, and M Rufino, Livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: Mitigation options and trade-offs. In: E Wollenberg, A Nihart, ML Tapio-Bistrom and C Seeberg-Elverfeldt (eds), Climate Change Mitigation and Agriculture, Earthscan, London, UK (in press).

See an earlier report on a similar topic in this ILRI News Blog: Livestock and climate change: Towards credible figures, 27 Jun 2011.

Taking stock: Global livestock production systems are (finely and finally) differentiated

Mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world produce significant amounts of milk and meat

Mixed crop-livestock systems in the developing world produce significant amounts of milk and meat (figure credit: ILRI/Herrero, 2010).

A new book years in the making on the seemingly abstruse topic of  ‘livestock system classifications’ has just been published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

To find out why classifying livestock systems is not an academic matter (hint: it can help fill the gap between the potential and actual yields of our food production systems), but rather matters rather urgently, particularly to the futures of more than 1 billion poor people who depend on livestock for their livelihoods, read on. And note that the book includes lots of new maps to pore over.

Global datasets are becoming increasingly important for priority setting and targeting by organizations with a global mandate for agriculture and agricultural research for development in developing countries. Until now, the best estimates of livestock production systems were those produced by ILRI in 2002. These have now been updated and improved upon by FAO and ILRI.

What’s the book about? From the blurb
‘Informed livestock sector policy development and priority setting is heavily dependent on a good understanding of livestock production systems. In a collaborative effort between the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Livestock Research Institute, stock has been taken of where we have come from in agricultural systems classification and mapping; the current state of the art; and the directions in which research and data collection efforts need to take in the future.

‘The book also addresses issues relating to the intensity and scale of production, moving from what is done to how it is done. The intensification of production is an area of particular importance, for it is in the intensive systems that changes are occurring most rapidly and where most information is needed on the implications that intensification of production may have for livelihoods, poverty alleviation, animal diseases, public health and environmental outcomes.

‘A series of case studies is provided, linking livestock production systems to rural livelihoods and poverty and examples of the application of livestock production system maps are drawn from livestock production, now and in the future; livestock’s impact on the global environment; animal and public health; and livestock and livelihoods. . . .’

Why this book? From the Introduction
‘Many organizations are involved in assembling and disseminating global spatial datasets that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Such datasets are becoming increasingly important for priority setting and targeting by organizations with a global mandate for agriculture and agricultural research for development, such as the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the international centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), regional and subregional research organizations, and donors who need to target their investments and measure their impacts on beneficiaries. The world in which we live is extremely dynamic, and this is reflected in the ways in which the world feeds itself and people meet their livelihood requirements. There can be considerable heterogeneity in the determinants of rural poverty (Snel and Henninger, 2002; Kristjanson et al., 2005). An implication of this is that poverty alleviation efforts increasingly need to be targeted at relatively small groups of people, and this calls for a finer grain in the definition of intervention domains than has perhaps been considered in the past.

‘Currently, one of the biggest gaps in the availability of global datasets is a spatial agricultural systems classification that provides appropriate detail on the distribution of crops and livestock in different places.

This publication addresses this gap by bringing together some recent developments in agricultural production system mapping and highlighting some of the difficult problems involved. The book also identifies further work that is required to develop a dynamic global agricultural production systems classification that can be mapped, ground-truthed, and refined through time. . . .

‘The outputs described here should find immediate application among development organizations, donors and research institutes, in targeting investment and technology or policy interventions that are effective in promoting sustainable livelihoods of the poor in developing countries.

Why map livestock production systems?
‘Farming of crops and livestock cannot be considered independently of one another nor should they be considered in isolation. Established links between livestock numbers, cultivation levels and human populations suggest that greater attention should be paid to quantifying and mapping these associations (Bourn and Wint, 1994). The interdependence of crops and livestock in mixed farms and the different contributions made to livelihoods (Powell et al., 1995) suggest that these two aspects of farming should be considered together. The nature of such interactions is heavily shaped by environmental factors and, increasingly, by economic forces.

‘A detailed knowledge of the distribution of livestock resources finds many applications, for example, in estimating production and off-take, the impacts of livestock on the environment, livestock disease risk and impact, and the role that livestock plays in people’s livelihoods (Robinson et al., 2007; FAO, 2007a). But livestock is not all equal. In different contexts it serves quite different functions, plays different roles in people’s livelihoods, varies in herd structure and breed composition, and is fed and managed in different ways. For most applications some sort of practical stratification is needed: milk yields are not the same from cows reared in extensive, low-input pastoral systems as they are from specifically-bred dairy cows raised intensively. In the same way, the risks posed by livestock diseases vary considerably depending on whether animals are kept in high-density housing or grazed over large areas of rangeland, for example. At its simplest, combining information on production systems with livestock statistics allows livestock numbers to be disaggregated by production system (see, for example, the appendices in FAO, 2007a). Compared with simple national totals, this gives a more meaningful breakdown of how livestock are distributed across the globe. . . .’

What are the new numbers? From the conclusions
‘In terms of the numbers of poor and our estimates of the numbers of poor livestock keepers, based on national, rural poverty lines for 2010, the critical regions are still South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Some 71 percent of the estimated 430 million poor livestock keepers live in these two regions, up from 66 percent a decade earlier. While the rangeland systems contain relatively few poor, most of these households are dependent on livestock for their livelihoods. Half of the poor livestock keepers in rangeland systems globally are located in sub-Saharan Africa: nearly 60 million, based on national, rural poverty lines. The mixed systems contain large numbers of poor (over one billion), and the number of poor people who depend to some extent on livestock is considerable: the mixed irrigated and mixed rainfed systems are estimated to host more than 300 million poor livestock keepers based on national and international US$1.25 per day poverty lines, and double that many based on the international US$2.00 per day poverty lines.

‘Despite their obvious limitations and coarseness, the data presented on locations and densities of poor livestock keepers can still provide information of considerable use. The current information continues to be used at ILRI to prioritize and focus livestock research, and to help identify ‘hotspots’ at the global and regional levels that can then be investigated in more detail at higher resolution. Such hotspots can be defined in various ways depending on the purpose: as areas of high population densities of poor livestock keepers, or areas of high densities of poor people coupled with high levels of biodiversity or natural resource degradation, for example. Such information is critical for informing action agendas concerning livestock, development, and global change. . . .’

How did the book come about? From the foreword
‘This book has grown out of a long-standing collaboration between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). It emerged from a meeting of international organizations held at the Earth Institute at Columbia University in 2004, at which FAO and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research were charged with closing a gap in our understanding of the distribution of agricultural production systems. The book took further shape following a workshop convened by FAO in Bangkok in 2006, during which the custodians of many of the key datasets needed to produce maps of global livestock production systems were brought together with experts and researchers in agricultural production systems. It brings together the results of several years’ of activity by FAO and ILRI, along with colleagues from the International Food Policy Research Institute, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis and many other organisations not explicitly linked to the production of the book.’

Download the whole publication here: Global livestock production systems, by TP Robinson, PK Thornton (ILRI), G Franceschini, RL Kruska (former ILRI), F Chiozza, A Notenbaert (ILRI), G Cecchi, M Herrero (ILRI), M Epprecht, S Fritz, L You, G Conchedda and L See, 2011, Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), 152 pp.

Deadly rinderpest virus today declared eradicated from the earth–‘greatest achievement in veterinary medicine’

At OIE, ILRI's Jeff Mariner and others responsible for the eradication of rinderpest

At the 79th General Session of the United Nations World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), in Paris in May 2011, ILRI’s Jeff Mariner (second from right) stands among a group of distinguished people heading work responsible for the eradication of rinderpest, a status officially declared at this meeting (image credit: OIE).

Several world bodies are celebrating what is being described as ‘the greatest achievement in veterinary medicine’: the eradication of only the second disease from the face of the earth.

The disease is rinderpest, which means ‘cattle plague’ in German. It kills animals by a virus—and people by starving them through massive losses of their livestock.

‘In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries,’ reports the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), ‘the disease devastated parts of Africa, triggering extensive famines. . . . After decades of efforts to stamp out a disease that kept crossing national borders, countries and institutions agreed they needed to coordinate their efforts under a single, cohesive programme. In 1994, the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP) was established at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in close association with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

‘Excellent science, a massive vaccination effort, close international coordination and the commitment of people at all levels have helped make rinderpest eradication possible.

‘On June 28, 2011, FAO’s governing Conference will adopt a resolution officially declaring that rinderpest has been eradicated from animals worldwide. The successful fight against rinderpest underscores what can be achieved when communities, countries and institutions work together.’

Nobel Laureate Peter Doherty

Australian Peter Doherty, 1996 winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine who served on the board of trustees of the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), a predecessor of  ILRI (photo credit: published on the Advance website).

Australian Peter Doherty, an immunologist who is the only veterinarian to win the Nobel Prize, for Physiology or Medicine, in 1996, and who served as chair of the board of trustees research program of the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD), a predecessor of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), is attending the FAO ceremonies this week. In an interview with FAO, he said:

Vaccine research is currently a very dynamic area of investigation and with sufficient investment and the enthusiastic participation of industry partners at the “downstream” end, we can achieve even better vaccines against many veterinary and human diseases.

The Washington Post in May reported that ‘the World Organization for Animal Health, at its annual meeting in Paris on Wednesday, accepted documentation from the last 14 countries that they were now free of rinderpest. The organization, which goes by its French acronym, OIE, was started in 1924 in response to a rinderpest importation in Europe.

‘The most recent recorded outbreak occurred in Kenya in 2001. Much of the past decade has been spent looking for new cases, in domesticated animals and in the wild, wandering herds of ungulates, or hoofed animals, in East Africa. The last place of especially intense surveillance was Somalia, where the final outbreak of smallpox occurred in 1977.

‘“There are a huge number of unsung heroes in lots of countries that made this possible,” said Michael Baron, a rinderpest virologist at the Institute for Animal Health in Surrey, England. “In most places, they were ordinary veterinary workers who were doing the vaccination, the surveillance, the teaching.”

‘Three things made rinderpest eradicable. Animals that survived infection became immune for life. A vaccine developed in the 1960s by Walter Plowright, an English scientist who died last year at 86, provided equally good immunity. And even though the virus could infect wild animals, it did not have a reservoir of host animals capable of carrying it for prolonged periods without becoming ill.

‘In 1994, the FAO launched an eradication program that was largely financed by European countries, although the United States, which never had rinderpest, also contributed money. The effort consisted of massive vaccination campaigns, which were made more practicable when two American researchers made a version of the Plowright vaccine that required no refrigeration. . . .’

One of those researchers was Jeffrey Mariner, now working at ILRI, in Nairobi, Kenya. Mariner also helped in surveillance work ‘with a technique called “participatory epidemiology” in which outside surveyors meet with herdsmen and ask open-ended questions about the health of their animals and when they last noticed certain symptoms.

‘“It was local knowledge that really helped us trace back the last places where transmission occurred—sitting down underneath a tree in the shade, listening to storytelling,” said Lubroth, of the FAO. . . .’

Read the whole article in the Washington Post, Rinderpest, or ‘cattle plague,’ becomes only second disease to be eradicated, 27 May 2011.

Read FAO’s interview of Peter Doherty: Healthier animals, healthier people, June 2011.

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.