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Jimmy Smith’s address to UK parliamentary group on the potential of livestock for development

The below presentation “‘Animal agriculture is the Cinderella of the agricultural world’, Jimmy Smith tells the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development” was done by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, to the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture and Food for Development.

Livestock can play major roles in development. Today I’m going to talk about the diversity of the livestock sector—and the many diverse ways that livestock contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction, to food and nutritional security and to sustainable food production.

Of course, mention of the ‘livestock sector’ conjures up greatly diverse images. The intensive livestock production systems common in rich countries—with sheds housing thousands of broiler chickens, or feedlots of beef cattle, or air-conditioned pig units, or high-tech dairy milking parlours—contrast sharply with the practices of small-scale farmers raising a couple of stall-fed dairy cows, or keeping a few chickens or pigs in a backyard, or herding goats, sheep and cattle on rangelands.

Taking account of such livestock diversity to determine appropriate interventions and development opportunities is challenging. The approach taken by ILRI and its partners to assess the roles of livestock in development, particularly for smallholders, in many ways parallels the conceptual framework used by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) for the agricultural sector as a whole. We consider the dynamics of livestock sector growth (often underpinned by market and value chain transformation), the diversity of livestock and livestock commodities and production systems, and the implications (and opportunities) of the transition of the livestock sector on smallholder livelihoods.

We also have to take account of some peculiarities that distinguish the livestock sector from agriculture as a whole.

  • First, there are the livestock ‘bads’. These include the environmental footprints of farm animals (carbon, water, land), the public health obesity epidemic and associated ill health due to overconsumption of meat and other foods, the zoonotic diseases that livestock transmit to humans, and illnesses caused by consuming contaminated livestock foods. All of these are real challenges and must be addressed. And transformation of the world’s smallholder livestock systems can certainly help address these challenges.
  • Then there is the fact that the on-going rapid transition of small-scale livestock production systems is demand-led; it is occurring because of rapidly rising demand for animal-source foods, primarily in developing countries.
  • Finally, there is continued neglect of smallholder livestock keepers and herders by official development assistance (ODA) and national government policies and projects. While providing developing countries with some 40% of agricultural gross domestic product, for example, the livestock sector receives less than 4% of agricultural ODA (which itself makes up less than 5% of total ODA).

Developing-world livestock

And this neglect is happening while demand for livestock commodities is rising rapidly. From 2005 to 2050 it is estimated that the world’s total dairy requirement will double to almost 1 billion tonnes per year, meat demand will nearly double, from 258 to some 450 million tonnes each year, and demand for pork and poultry meat and eggs will increase at least four-fold.

Almost all of this rising demand for animal-source foods is happening in developing countries, where populations, urbanization and incomes are all increasing. But although total consumption will rise, by mid-century per capita consumption of meat in the developing world is expected to be only one-third that of the USA.

In the developing countries where this massive demand is taking place, at least 70% of the milk, meat and eggs today is being produced by smallholders, with most of the products sold in domestic and so-called ‘informal’ markets.

How will the rising demand for these foods be met tomorrow? ILRI researchers see three possible ways, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. All three will co-exist and evolve over the coming decades. . . .

Please go to the ILRI News blog to read the rest of this article: Jimmy Smith’s address to UK parliamentary group on the potential of livestock for development


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