Watch ILRI’s new 4-minute photofilm, A tribute to the unsung heroes of small-scale food production.
A hitherto disregarded vast group of farmers—those who farm both crops and livestock—hold the key to feeding the world in coming years. Most of the world’s ‘mixed’ farmers are smallholders tending rice paddies or cultivating maize and beans while raising a few animals. A research report led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) indicates that this group is likely to play the biggest role in global food security over the next several decades (see ILRI Corporate Report 2009-2010, ‘Back to the Future: Revisiting mixed crop-livestock systems’). This photofilm celebrates these ‘unsung heroes’—both the mixed farmers themselves and their farm animals.
Some of our readers will remember that last year a perspective piece by ILRI was published in a special February 2010 issue of Science on food security, “Smart Investments in Sustainable Food Production: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems”, focused on the importance of the same smallholder mixed farmers.
This article was based on results of a study by the Systemwide Livestock Programme of the CGIAR Consortium.
Small farms that combine crop and livestock production supply much of the food staples (41 percent of maize, 86 percent of rice, and 74 percent of millet), as well as most of the meat and dairy products consumed in these countries.
The billions of dollars promised by the international donor community to fund small-scale agriculture farming are likely to fail unless policies are reoriented towards these ‘mixed’ farmers.
The pressures of climate change and finite resources, as well as the increasing demand for milk, meat and eggs across the developing world, will require proper planning, looking beyond ‘business as usual investments,’ and a greater ‘intellectual commitment’ to understanding food systems in the developing world.
Read more on this topic in ILRI’s Corporate Report 2009–2010: Back to the Future: Revisiting Mixed Crop-Livestock Systems, 2009.
Or visit the CGIAR Systemwide Livestock Programme website.