Livestock keeping is often portrayed as a pathway out of poverty, particularly for the landless poor. However, in recent years, concern has grown that standard approaches to poverty alleviation for livestock keepers are failing to produce the promised benefits, with producers facing increasing challenges from land grabbing, cheap imports and climate change.
In response, the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP) has advocated the need for a new approach, re-examining the notion of growth and how to support sustainable livestock development. In September 2012, a conference on ‘Livestock Futures’, organised by the LPP in Bonn, Germany, gave an opportunity for livestock keepers and international experts to share their visions for the livestock sector and how to set it on a sustainable path. Several participants also shared their views with New Agriculturist.
Importance of smallscale systems
The first role of the smallscale livestock keeper is that they conserve precious biodiversity, precious livestock breeds which are highly adaptable, which produce in a very low input system, which are resistant to many challenges. And second role they are producing high quality food items for the society, for the people. And thirdly they are the sign of our heritage, our culture; they attract tourists in the form of eco-tourism.
Abdul Raziq Kakar, SAVES, Pakistan
The future of livestock depends on the future of livestock keepers. The importance of their contribution to food security and the economies of the countries where they raise their animals is tremendous. The value of animal trade has gone from US$250 million to US$1 billion in Africa in recent years.
Getachew Gebru, MARIL research and development organisation, Kenya and Ethiopia
Many small livestock keepers are women
I discovered this interesting fact: the average size of dairy herd in the world is just three cows. You see how many small herds there must be? Small scale involves so, so many people. Large scale involves very few. We need to appreciate the role of the small scale and what they do for consumers and what we should be doing to help them.
Wolfgang Bayer, AGRECOL, Germany
I think small livestock keepers play a very important role in developing countries, in generating income for the families. Mostly the small livestock keepers are women and when the women get some income they take care of their family, their children and also resolve poverty in our local areas.
Nouhoun Zampaligre (Burkina Faso), PhD student, University of Kassel, Germany
I think they have an important role in preserving local breed biodiversity and helping us to understand how multi-functional agriculture and livestock keepers can be. The smallscale producers have more criteria, not only money or production of milk or meat; they have traditions, they have culture and other things which are very important to preserve.
Maria Rosa Lanari, National Institute for Agricultural Technology, Argentina
Pressures and policy failures
There’s not enough attention to what’s happening in livestock. Not enough attention on how we can link smallholders to market. The demand is from cities looking for cheap goods and it is likely that the smaller scale producers will be excluded because of the economies of scale and distance. Growth in Africa in recent years has been 6-7%. But the increase in demand is not being met by smallholders. It comes from imports. How do we tackle this?
Henning Steinfeld, FAO
Smallscale livestock keepers are facing increasing challenges from land grabbing, cheap imports and climate change
In the pastoral system you have the people, you have the animals, you have the natural resources. That is where we usually fail. We either just take the livestock and work on it or we take the natural resource and work on it. We do not have this holistic approach. And secondly we need to be able to see how, when you change one factor you are also affecting the other, but we fail to understand how that is impacting.
Getachew Gebru, MARIL, Ethiopia
Livestock keepers’ rights need to be recognised. Our contribution to the creation and maintenance of animal genetic resources is not widely appreciated. Sometimes I feel depressed that every pastoralist community faces the same problems but that is what makes it necessary to find solutions at international level, at national level, right down to local officials.
Hanwant Singh, Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), Rajasthan, India
Policies do not support the poorest at all, not anywhere: not in Pakistan, not in Europe, not in America, not in Canada. The national governments, the international people they are looking for mega projects for big things to be visible, to get more support. But our lands are being grabbed; our ways are discouraged; with climate change there are new diseases. Everything is against us so we need the support of national and international bodies to survive.
Abdul Raziq Kakar, SAVES
Strategies and solutions
For me a key step is the provision of credit to entrepreneurs to set up facilities such as a processing plant close to the producing areas. The livestock keepers will then have a reliable, convenient market for what they produce and with the new income they look after their family’s needs and then look after their livestock better and improve their health and productivity. They buy more from local feed mills and other suppliers and the benefits are shared.
Nancy Abeiderrahmane, Tiviski Camel Milk Dairy, Mauritania
Reliable, convenient livestock markets are important
Smallholders in developing countries must clearly identify the benefits of these production systems. How can you measure these benefits and how can you use them to access the markets? We need to convince the consumer that this is important, to buy these things for their quality and the quality of their processing.
Ernesto Reyes, livestock economist, Agri Benchmark, Mallorca
For Dutch farmers the solutions lie in restoration of soil fertility; the optimisation of the farm as a whole rather then the maximisation of one single product; to sell direct or add value; to diversify the farmer’s work and income; re-value local and dual-purpose breeds. I believe in livestock production globally there needs to be a ‘technology leap’ where developing countries can learn from what has happened in highly industrialised animal production sectors.
Katrien van’t Hooft, Tradinova, Netherlands
There are good signs of regional collaboration. I see it starting in Africa, to regionally work together for example to control transboundary diseases that afflict so many smaller and poor livestock keepers. These initiatives are good but we need more.
Getachew Gebru, MARIL
Listening and engaging
The smallholders, the pastoral people, they have no representation in the parliament. They have no political power. They are living in far flung areas so they have no participation at policy level. They are not asked when the policy is formalised. The utmost need is to take smallholders on board while formulating any policy relating to animal genetic resources, related to livestock production systems.
Abdul Raziq Kakar
Derived from the report of new agriculturist; available in the link below.