Dairy: A tool to fight poverty—An interview with IFCN’s Torsten Hemme

Niko Pirosmani, Woman Milks a Cow, 1916 (via Wikiart).

Listen to one of three interviewees on a recent BBC broadcast on the topic of dairy and poverty.

Having scanned the scientific literature (100 journal articles) on the impact of milk production on reducing poverty, Torsten Hemme, managing director of the IFCN (International Farm Comparison Network) Dairy Research Center, in Kiel, Germany, says that dairy is improving lives in multiple ways.

‘All these studies show that dairy is improving the nutritional, economic, educational and health status of the people. Now we have evidence of using dairy as a tool to fight poverty, which for me is the biggest challenge on the planet. I would say that it’s good that people in Kenya produce more milk.

Milk Jug, by Vincent Van Gogh, 1862 (via Wikiart).

Just 2% of all (human-generated) greenhouse gas emissions can be related to dairy. So if you take dairy out, and put other crops in, which also create emissions, you might save 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. It’s not a lot and we won’t save the planet that way.

Still Life with Churn, By Paul Serusier, 1925 (via Wikiart).

We have analysed how many dairy farms are in the world, and we came up with around 120 million, with the average dairy farm in the world keeping three cows.
What we see if we take dairy out of the diets of people is that we need to find new activities for 1 billion people or 100 million farmers.
Additionally, you have the whole dairy value chain; we came up with a number of 1 billion people’s livelihoods are affected by producing and distributing milk.
So we would have a tremendous social and economic challenge and we would lose a tremendous tool for fighting poverty in developing countries.

Listen to the whole BBC program, presented by Emily Thomas, in the latest episode of her program ‘Food Chain’ titled Going Off Cow’s Milk?, 23 Sep 2018 (Hemme’s interview runs from 08.08 to 10.42 minutes).

The full study cited is Dairy Development’s Impact on Poverty Reduction, published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Dairy Platform (GDP) and the IFCN Dairy Research Network in 2018.

The 2-minute interview of Torston Hemme is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/p06lf8q4

The full 26-minute BBC program is here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/play/w3cswpn1

Two studies on greenhouse gas emissions and livestock / dairy cited in the BBC radio program are:
FAO 2010—2.7% dairy-specific greenhouse gas emissions, including production, processing and distribution: http://www.fao.org/docrep/012/k7930e/k7930e00.pdf
FAO 2006—18% livestock-specific greenhouse gas emissions: http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e.pdf

And don’t miss also
Shirley Tarawali, assistant director general at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was interviewed for this BBC ‘Food Chain’ program back in Oct 2016. The topic then was Should we all be vegans? Her interview starts at 23.11 and goes to 25.12 minutes.