Working together for viable livestock futures: Stakeholders at the Global Agenda of Action speak out

Today (17 Jun 2013), a meeting of A Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development is taking place at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The Agenda is a partnership of stakeholders who are committed to the sustainable development of the livestock sector. Today’s Multi-stakeholder Action for Sustainable Livestock meeting will share experiences on innovative forms of stakeholder dialogue and partnerships and is a follow up to an Agenda meeting held this past January in Kenya.

This 6-minute film shares views of some of the participants at the Third Multi-stakeholder Platform Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action which was held in Nairobi 22-24 January 2013. The meeting was organized by FAO, the African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

‘We’re not particularly good at articulating how the livestock sector should move forward and the social and economic benefits the sector offers,’ says Henning Steinfeld, head of the livestock sector analysis and policy branch at FAO.

‘This agenda ensures we are working together to make livestock production meet the future needs for animal products for a growing world population, especially in developing countries,’ said Hsin Huang, secretary general of the International Meat Secretariat.

The Agenda’s stakeholders are focusing on three areas in their quest to improve the performance of the livestock sector:

  • Closing the efficiency gap: Application of existing technology and institutional frameworks to generate large resource use efficiency, economic and social gains. 
  • Restoring value to grasslands: Harnessing grass/rangeland’s potential to contribute to environmental services and sustainable livelihoods.
  • Towards zero discharge: Reducing nutrient overload and greenhouse gas emissions through cost-effective recycling and recovery of nutrients and energy contained in animal manure.

Nearly 100 participants from more than 20 countries attended this year’s meeting. The official launch of the Global Agenda of Action is planned later.

Read ILRI news articles about the Third Multi-stakeholder Platform Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action:

The ‘cream’ from more efficient dairying: Kenya to pilot scheme to pay smallholders for their environmental services

Global Agenda: 1 of 3 objectives

One of three objectives of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development. Its Third Multi-Stakeholder Platform Meeting was co-hosted in Nairobi, Kenya, by ILRI, FAO and AU-IBAR, 22-24 Jan 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Guest blog post by ILRI’s Simon Fraval

In collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development, researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) are assessing the feasibility of the Kenyan dairy industry obtaining payment for its environmental services through productivity gains. (See this ILRI position paper for more information on ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes).

Reducing the level of greenhouse gases generated per unit of milk produced by smallholder farmers could be attractive to environmental markets. While this project will not provide direct money transfers to Kenya’s dairy farmers, it will support agricultural extension for better cow nutrition and other interventions made to increase milk production while also reducing emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of milk.

The concept gained momentum at an interim preparatory committee meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development held in Rome in September 2012.

The Global Agenda is committed to broad-based, voluntary and informal stakeholder actions improving the performance of the livestock sector. It ambitiously aims to protect natural resources as well as to reduce poverty and protect public health. The Agenda’s stakeholders have agreed initially to focus on the following three objectives: Close the efficiency gap in livestock production systems, restore value to grasslands’ environmental services and sustainable livelihoods, and recover and recycle nutrients and energy contained in animal manure. The Agenda is working to achieve these objectives largely through consulting and networking, analyzing and informing, and guiding and piloting.

Progress on the Kenya dairy pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project was presented at the third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda, held in Nairobi, Kenya, 22–24 January 2013. This project provided a practical example of the Agenda’s core activity in piloting novel approaches to ‘close the efficiency gap’. The presentation to the Global Agenda meeting can be found on its Livestock Dialogue website.

Pilot workshop on payment for environmental services for Kenya's dairy sector

A stakeholders’ workshop on a pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project for Kenya’s dairy industry was held in Jan 2013. Pictured left to right: Luke Kessei, Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development; Julius Kiptarus, Director of Livestock Production in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development; Pierre Gerber, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; and Isabelle Baltenweck, ILRI (photo credit: MLD/Henry Ngeno).

Following the progress update provided at the mid-January 2013 Global Agenda meeting, a stakeholder workshop was held later in the month (29 Jan 2013) engaging representatives from the Kenya Dairy Board, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, the Kenya Dairy Processors Association, Kenyan livestock and cooperation ministries, development organizations and ILRI. The workshop was attended by Julius Kiptarus, Director of Livestock Production in Kenya’s Ministry of Livestock Development.

Stakeholders of the pilot ‘payment for environmental services’ project for Kenya’s dairy industry discussed the intricacies of such schemes, particularly carbon markets; site selection; potential greenhouse gas mitigation activities; and the design of a feasibility study. View slide presentations from this workshop here.

Technical mitigation options in dairy from ILRI: By Caroline Opiyo, of FAO.

This pilot project is the first to access markets for payment for environmental services schemes through productivity gains in smallholder livestock enterprises. With the setting of this precedent and development of an internationally recognized methodology, development organizations will be able to replicate this pilot project and draw funding from the carbon market and other providers of ‘payment for environmental services’ schemes.

For more information, please contact Simon Fraval, a volunteer with AusAID’s Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development program placed at ILRI’s Nairobi headquarters, where he supports CGIAR research programs on ‘Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security’ and ‘Livestock and Fish: More meat, milk and fish by and for the poor’. Fraval brings to ILRI expertise in livestock value-chain development and life-cycle assessment. Contact him at s.fraval [at]

The catch in making livestock more efficient: How to work together towards ‘a greater whole’

Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, Nairobi

Some of the participants at the on-going third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Development taking place in Nairobi 22-24 Jan 2013 (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

Experts on livestock sector development are gathered this week in Nairobi, Kenya, to think through ways in which the livestock sector can be made more efficient.

On 22 January 2013, at the on-going third multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, Shirley Tarawali, director of institutional planning and partnerships at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), was one of six members of a panel that discussed the clash between resource scarcity and demand growth in the livestock sector.

This panel reviewed the issues, challenges and possible solutions to the problem.

‘The clash between resource scarcity and livestock demand is a real and not a vague “sometime in the future”’ challenge, said Tarawali. ‘We must address it now; it will have devastating effects in our lifetimes if we do not.’

One of the certainties in recent years is that demand for food, especially animal-source foods such as milk, meat and eggs, has steadily risen. Livestock commodities are now among the top five highest value global commodities. Demand for livestock products has led to land use competition between food, feeds and fuel. Increased pressure on land means more food, to feed a growing world population, has to come from increased production on existing farmlands.

These realities are affecting the decisions taken by policymakers at the national level as they design policies on agricultural production, such as  how smallholder farmers should feed their animals or use and manage the manure their animals produce.

According to Tarawali, these challenges offer opportunities in three areas.

  • Diversity: Experts need to deal with the diversity of farming systems, commodities and efficiencies associated with livestock.
  • Dynamics: We need to influence the future dynamics of these changing livestock systems.
  • Development: We need to understand the impacts of livestock production on development issues such as poverty, health and nutrition, and food security.

‘The answer to these challenges does not lie in research alone,’ said Tarawali. ‘The answer will come from a “greater whole” in which research is only a small part.

According to Tarawali, stakeholders should bring together the parts that make up this whole. These include biophysical research that addresses issues such as productivity and efficient animal production; institutional support for markets and service support; and livestock systems issues such as research on future food needs and the diverse starting points and solutions to these challenges.

‘The Global Agenda of Action provides a forum for bridging these gaps and strengthening synergies between investment, development and public- and private-sector research towards this end,’ Tarawali said.

‘But,’ she cautioned, ‘the Agenda’s stakeholders need to think about the process of getting to this whole. We need to have a clear message to share to successfully influence and motivate decision-makers.

‘The catch lies in how we bring together the collective skills of all stakeholders towards this end.’

Read two recent article from the on-going multi-stakeholder platform meeting of the global agenda of action:

Taking the long livestock view
Greening the livestock sector: ‘Game changers’ for environmental, social, economic gains

View a presentation on ILRI’s experience in working with public-private partnerships to promote pro-poor livestock development.

Taking the long livestock view

Taking the long livestock view, slide presentation by ILRI director general Jimmy Smith.

View this slide presentation, Taking the Long Livestock View, made by Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), at the Third Stakeholder Meeting of the Global Agenda of Action for Sustainable Livestock Sector Development, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 January 2013.

What follows is the gist, but view the presentation itself to get the affecting imagery.

‘Long before recorded history, people depended on animals for their survival. Some seven to nine thousand years ago, people domesticated large herbivores. Evidence suggests that cattle domestication occurred in Africa as well as Mesopotamia (Iraq) and the Indus Valley (Pakistan). This animal domestication helped bring about the agricultural revolution.

‘Only during the last century did perceptions of the benefits of animals begin to diverge. People in more developed regions of the world began separating from the animals they raised and consumed. This is reflected in the “factory farms” of industrialized and industrializing parts of the world.

‘But people in less developed regions (mostly the South — especially in Africa and Asia) maintained close relations with their domesticated animals, which shared their farm compounds and scarce resources to support their livelihoods.

‘Thus, today perspectives on the value of livestock diverge, depending on whether people: (1) are poor or rich, (2) eat too little or too much and (3) live with or away from livestock.

‘For those who live with and depend on livestock:
• Livestock production and marketing remain essential to 1 billion people.
• 80% of the world’s livestock foods are generated on small farms, mostly those mixing animal raising with crop growing, and sold in informal markets.
• 80% of Africa’s poor keep livestock, which contribute at least one-third of their annual income as well as other benefits (e.g., food, manure, traction).
• Livestock are central to the lives and well-being of developing-country women, children and households.
• Women livestock producers, processors and sellers are essential to developing-country economies.

‘While domesticated animals remain highly valued in poor countries, it is companion animals that are increasingly revered in wealthier countries or segments of society today:
• World pet food sales are roughly USD72 billion annually
• and growing at a rate of 4% annually in the United States
• and at 11−12% annually in eastern Europe and Latin America.
• 62% of all households in the U.S. own a pet animal
• including 78 million dogs and 86 million cats who are in need of medicine like this calming treats for dogs and cats.
• costing their owners on average USD800 per animal per year.

‘As animals for food became divorced from animals for companionship in the U.S. and other rich countries, and have begun to be similarly divorced in urban areas of fast-developing countries, it is livestock that remain important to poor communities.

‘Now there is an added source of tension between those who can over-consume livestock and other foods and those who cannot. For many who have escaped poverty, environmental issues in the livestock sector are now paramount. For those who remain in absolute poverty, what is paramount is getting enough to eat, making a living, staying healthy.

‘So for those now divorced from livestock, the narrative is: If we want to save the planet, we should get rid of the livestock. And to preserve our health, we should stop eating meat.

‘But the on-going demand-led ‘livestock revolution’ happened fast. Green and equitable policies/incentives haven’t caught up with livestock practices. The livestock revolution of the South may slow but it will not stop. Some estimates show that demand for livestock foods will rise more than 100% in the next 30 years (and poultry by 170% in Africa).

‘Our livestock-related ills are largely the result of public sector neglect. We can grow the livestock sector in poor countries in ways that are:
• Green
• Equitable
• Sustainable
• Profitable

‘What can be done?
‘Those of us working in livestock for development can ensure that we approach livestock development as a transitory pathway out of poverty. And we can, and must, support many poor people in exiting the livestock sector in the coming decades.

‘Research can help
‘Research on the transition of livestock systems can:
• Address future as well as current food needs — understand better growth trajectories
• Exploit a diversity of starting points and solutions
• Work explicitly toward ‘inclusive growth’ that is both sustainable and equitable.

‘Research on biophysical matters can:
• Increase productivity via better livestock feeds, breeds and health
• Enhance the efficiency of animal production
• Improve control of livestock and zoonotic diseases
• Manage trade-offs in livestock vs human nutrition
• Find practical and equitable solutions to environmental problems.

‘Research on institutional matters can:
• Create incentives for environmental stewardship
• Build market and service provision models
• Build business enterprise models
• Provide evidence to guide livestock investments.

‘Our concern for the environment needn’t override our concern for the world’s poor.

‘Livestock are not the most important factor in developing-world agriculture. People are. For ten thousand years, livestock have mattered to people. They’ll almost certainly matter for a few thousand more. ILRI is delighted to be working with you, working towards convergence, and getting traction this week, on livestock futures that benefit all.’

Read more on the ILRI News Blog about the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development and its Third Stakeholder Meeting, held in Nairobi, Kenya, on 22 January 2013: Greening the livestock sector: ‘Game changers’ for environmental, social, economic gains, 22 Jan 2013.