Knowledge for better food systems

FAO State of Food and Agriculture report

The FAO has published the latest in its annual series of State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) reports, and this time the focus is on livestock.
The FAO has published the latest in its annual series of State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) reports, and this time the focus is on livestock. The report examines the livestock issue in terms of:
  • Trends and drivers in the production and consumption of livestock and in the type of livestock systems
  • The relationship between livestock, food security and poverty
  • Livestock and the environmental implications
  • Human and animal health
Much of it draws upon the 2006 Livestock’s Long Shadow report but this time there is quite a bit more emphasis on the role and needs of, and problems faced by, the smallholder and mixed livestock sectors. It emphasises the need for global collective governance and action on addressing the challenges that the livestock sector poses. Its key main conclusions are as follows:
  • The livestock sector is expanding rapidly, driven by population growth, rising affluence and urbanization.
  • Decisive action is required if increasing demand is to be met in ways that are environmentally sustainable and contribute to poverty alleviation and improved human health.
  • The contribution of the livestock sector to poverty alleviation should be enhanced through appropriate policy reform and investments within a framework of broader rural development policies.
  • Governance of the livestock sector should be strengthened to ensure that its development is environmentally sustainable and that it both adapts to and contributes to mitigating climate change.
  • The neglect of animal-health systems in many parts of the world must be redressed, and producers at every level must be involved in the development of animal-disease and food-safety programmes.
It has a diagram where it sets out how different types of countries (industrialising, post-industrial etc) are likely to balance the various areas in which livestock are implicated: Specifically on the environment the report concludes:
  • There is an urgent need for governments and institutions to develop and enact appropriate policies, at the national and international levels, that focus more on and account for livestock–environment interactions. Continued growth in livestock production will otherwise exert enormous pressures on ecosystems, biodiversity, land and forest resources and water quality, and will contribute to global warming.
  • A key policy focus should be on correcting market distortions and policy failures that encourage environmental degradation. For example, subsidies that directly or indirectly promote overgrazing, land degradation, deforestation, overuse of water or GHG emissions should be reduced or eliminated. Market-based policies, such as taxes and fees for natural resource use, should cause producers to internalize the costs of environmental damages caused by livestock production.
  • Some negative environmental consequences from livestock production stem from problems associated with open-access common-property resources. Clarifying property rights and promoting mechanisms for cooperation are vital to sustainable management of common property.
  • The application of technologies that improve the efficiency of land use and feed use can mitigate the negative effects of livestock production on biodiversity, ecosystems and global warming. Technologies that increase livestock efficiency include improved breeds, improved grazing-land management, improved herd-health management and silvipastoralism.
  • Payments from public or private sources for environmental services can be an effective means to promote better environmental outcomes, including soil conservation, conservation of wildlife and landscapes and carbon sequestration.
  • The livestock sector has enormous potential to contribute to climate change mitigation. Realizing this potential will require new and extensive initiatives at the national and international levels, including: the promotion of research on and development of new mitigation technologies; effective and enhanced means for financing livestock activities; deploying, diffusing and transferring technologies to mitigate GHG emissions; and enhanced capacities to monitor, report and verify emissions from livestock production.
Read the press release here.
 

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