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Smallscale livestock keeping - a sustainable future?

Approaches to poverty alleviation for smallscale livestock keepers are failing to produce the promised benefits (© FAO/Asim Hafeez)
Approaches to poverty alleviation for smallscale livestock keepers are failing to produce the promised benefits
© FAO/Asim Hafeez

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 (© FAO/Pius Ekpei)
Many small livestock keepers are women
© FAO/Pius Ekpei

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 (© FAO/Pius Ekpei)
Smallscale livestock keepers are facing increasing challenges from land grabbing, cheap imports and climate change
© FAO/Pius Ekpei

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 (© FAO/Giulio Napolitano)
Reliable, convenient livestock markets are important
© FAO/Giulio Napolitano

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

To make policies pro-poor, smallscale livestock keepers must be engaged (© FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri)
To make policies pro-poor, smallscale livestock keepers must be engaged
© FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

I think livestock keepers are closer to getting a voice. There's a lot more awareness amongst livestock keepers. Policymakers realise the need to engage them. I'm expecting a breakthrough soon. We need to get the livestock keepers integrated in the policy making process.
Ilse Koehler Rollefson, League for Pastoral Peoples, Germany

If we want to make policy pro poor, the primary thing that we have to do is engage. Engage the poor, engage the diverse and differentiated communities into the process. And when you do that then they have a voice. It is an issue of empowering them and knowing their rights; it is an issue of engaging in setting priorities at the community local level, priorities of development. The fundamental thing is to bridge the knowledge gap and the power gap.
Getachew Gebru

If we, the livestock keepers, join together then our voice will be heard by governments. I have gone out from my community to speak to the people in government so they hear about our way of life and the milk and meat and wool we produce. We cannot just stay in the villages or the fields. We have to speak up for Livestock keeper's rights.
Dayali Devi Raika, Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), Rajasthan, India

Reforming policies

There is an assumption that small scale livestock keepers and pastoralists are the most ecologically sustainable and produce the best products. I believe that is not necessarily true. We need to look closer at the reality and, through policy, devise and offer practical support to improve productivity, quality and quantity and consistency.
Carolin Callenius, Bread for the World, Germany

Smallholder livestock keepers should be given a good marketing place with good prices. If they are provided with good animal genome they will produce; even if keeping small numbers of animals they can produce well. And when they would be getting subsidised feed and also housing and some infrastructure, these factors would definitely improve sustainability.
Muhammad Tariq, University of Faisalabad, Pakistan

What can governments do to support smallscale indigenous livestock keepers? (© FAO/Issouf Sanogo)
What can governments do to support smallscale indigenous livestock keepers?
© FAO/Issouf Sanogo

My local experience is that we need more laws, regulations for smallscale production. For example, to produce cheese at home we have now regulations, which are for big factories in the country. So we need more laws and regulations that are appropriate for this smallscale sector.
Maria Rosa Lanari, Argentina

I think the kind of policies that will enable us to keep our livestock is what we really need, instead of bringing in the exotic livestock as a way of improving our lives. What the government can do is to support the smallscale indigenous livestock keepers to select, to improve their breed so that we can be able to produce enough milk from this breed.
Elizabeth Katushabe, Pastoral and Environmental Network in the Horn of Africa (PENHA), Uganda

Because of the pressure in many countries for economic development and growth, the poor will fall into the cracks. So we need to be able to play both. We can have economic growth but at the same time we need to ensure that our development programmes and policies are also geared towards the poor.
Getachew Gebru

Understanding sustainability

In Uganda, policies have introduced the Holstein-Friesian for quick production of milk. But this is not sustainable because the Friesian is a weak animal in the harsh conditions of our country. The Ankole Long-Horned Cattle has lived for centuries in this harsh condition and has sustained our livelihoods, and I think this is what I should call a sustainable kind of livestock keeping. Keeping an animal that can survive the conditions in an area.
Elizabeth Katushabe, PENHA

For me a sustainable livestock sector is a sector that can ride a balance between what is produced and what is bought and what is exported and what is imported. We need to clearly define which are our consumers, and how are we going to please them. And once you define these conditions you need to have the proper conditions for production and the proper conditions to reach these markets in a sustainable way that can fulfil the requirements in terms of food security, in terms of environmental conditions and in terms of efficiency.
Ernesto Reyes, Agri Benchmark

What does a sustainable livestock sector look like? (© FAO/Ami Vitale)
What does a sustainable livestock sector look like?
© FAO/Ami Vitale

Sustainable livestock keeping is to have a system that is very good in a social way, but also very profitable for our people and also accepted in a cultural way. For sustainability, three things are important for me: social, economic and cultural.
Nouhoun Zampaligre, University of Kassel

Sustainable livestock keeping is basically using your own resources and then producing ecologically and economically sustainable livestock and livestock products for yourself and also for the public.
Muhammad Tariq, University of Faisalabad

I can imagine systems where you can produce without making mistakes with the environment, to protect the environment that your children can use later in 20 years and 30 years. You must be able to use in the same way. So it is sustainable.
Maria Rosa Lanari, National Institute for Agricultural Technology

In my view sustainable means to produce in a way that you do not depend on external inputs like imported feed, imported soya. And in the meanwhile you do not harm the environment and you hand over these animal genetic resources safe and sound to the next generation.
Abdul Raziq Kakar

With contributions from: Susie Emmett, Green Shoots Productions

Date published: November 2012


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