African Livestock — Realizing the potential of livestock for food security, poverty reduction and the environment

Susan Macmillan
11 August 2015

A study published last year indicates the potential for the growth in livestock production and demand in Africa to contribute greatly to the continent’s employment and economy as well as to the resilience and productivity of its many livestock keepers.

David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Food Security and Nutrition and Special Envoy on Ebola, directed the development and implementation of the study. Nabarro says that “As people’s incomes increase, their demand for (and access to) livestock products tends to increase as well.” He believes that “the degree to which people have predictable access to safe livestock products depends on the extent to which local markets responds to increasing demand and to which gaps in production can be met through imports from elsewhere”.

But it is essential, he says, that governments and regional organizations play a vital role in setting and executing policies for livestock development. This includes ensuring strong and predictable investments in livestock systems that are accompanied by adequate veterinary services, well enforced regulations to limit the externalities associated with intensified production and with payment for environmental services.

Policies should also includes governments being enabled to combine the enforcement of regulations with the application of incentives in ways that take account of income inequalities, and are guided by applied research at the interfaces between animals and humans within different ecosystems.

The study was prepared by a core research team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) under the stewardship of the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition and UN System Influenza Coordination (UNSIC).

The conduct of the study was made possible through financial support provided by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The scenarios used in the study were developed and quantified as part of the European Union (EU) funded project “An integration of mitigation and adaptation options for sustainable livestock production under climate change”.

Key highlights from the study are:

  • Under all scenarios, smallholders, with their mixed crop and livestock farming systems, will continue to be the main producers of ruminant (cattle, goat and sheep) products until 2050. For monogastrics (such as poultry and pigs), most of the expansion will be through industrial production systems.
  • Policies that encourage healthy food consumption patterns, the sustainable intensification of all livestock production systems and selective promotion of monogastric livestock production, could result in increased environmental efficiency of livestock systems in sub-Saharan Africa. This can be done in ways that protect production in pastoral communities, and by smallholder farmers.
  • Sustainable intensification of livestock production will yield significant benefits for food security, incomes, trade, smallholder competitiveness and ecosystems service These benefits need to be widely appreciated: at the present time farmers face major challenges when attempting to increase their investments in livestock production especially when the sector’s contribution to sustainable development and economic growth is not appreciated.
  • The required investments include increased provision of veterinary services, inputs, institutional support, processing and market These are all essential if current livestock production systems are to evolve into viable commercial operations.

“The results of this research set the scene for more intensive work on options for expanding livestock production in Africa”, said Nabarro. Follow-up work will explore how the dynamics of livestock markets will evolve in Africa and how changes in habitats will impact on the likelihood that new diseases will emerge and threaten the health of both animal and, if they are transmissible, human populations providing a detailed map for disease emergence hotspots under the different livestock scenarios.

For questions or comments, please contact David Nabarro at david.nabarro@undp.org with copy to Mario Herrero at Mario.Herrero@csiro.au and chadia.wannous@undp.org.

Online versions of the full Report of the study, Executive Summary and Policy Brief are available at UN-Influenza.org website: http://un-influenza.org/?q=content/african-livestock-futures-realizing-potential-livestock.