By Kemo Cham
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has called for increased investments in the global livestock sector to ensure meeting growing global demand for animal products, contributes to livelihoods and mitigates environmental and health concerns.
The United Nations agency described livestock in its report, ‘the State of food and Agriculture’, published Thursday 18 February 2010, as essential to the livelihoods of around one billion poor people, as it provides income, high-quality food, fuel, draught power, building material and fertilizer.
According to the report, livestock production being one of the fastest growing parts of the agricultural economy needs greater investments and stronger institutions to ensure its continued vital role in furthering food security and poverty reduction.
“The rapid transition of the livestock sector has been taking place in an institutional void,” Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, was quoted in the press release issued on the report. “The issue of governance is central. Identifying and defining the appropriate role of government, in its broadest sense, is the cornerstone on which future development of the livestock sector must build,” Mr Diouf added.
According to the report, rising incomes, population growth and urbanization are the driving forces behind a growing demand for meat products in developing world. And to meet this demand, the report went on, global annual meat production is expected to expand from the current 228 million tons to 463 million tons by 2050, with the cattle population estimated to grow from 1.5 billion to 2.6 billion and that of goats and sheep from 1.7 billion to 2.7 billion.
The report however raised concern over competitive effect of larger and more intensive production systems over many smallholders.
“A widening gulf is emerging between those who can take advantage of growing demand for livestock products and those who cannot,” the report cautioned, stressing that smallholders need support to take advantage of the opportunities provided by an expanding livestock sector and manage risks related to increasing competition.
The report also pointed to the need to reduce the environmental footprint of livestock production, and ensure that its continued growth does not create undue pressure on ecosystems, biodiversity, land and forest resources and water quality and does not contribute to global warming.
‘‘Livestock can play an important role in both adapting to climate change and mitigating its effects on human welfare,’’ FAO said, calling for the development of new technologies to realize the sector’s potential to this important field.
The UN agency also called for investments in national animal-health and food safety infrastructure to reduce the risks of animal diseases to humans, and noted the need to keep poor livestock keepers more engaged in disease-control efforts.
By Kemo Cham