18 February 2010 The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today urged substantial investments to ensure that the world’s livestock sector responds to a growing demand for animal products, contributes to livelihoods and mitigates environmental and health concerns.
Livestock is essential to the livelihoods of around one billion poor people, providing income, high-quality food, fuel, draught power, building material and fertilizer, the Rome-based agency noted in its flagship report, the State of Food and Agriculture.
It is one of the fastest growing parts of the agricultural economy, and greater investments and stronger institutions are needed to ensure that it continues to play a vital role in furthering food security and poverty reduction, FAO added.
“The rapid transition of the livestock sector has been taking place in an institutional void,” said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “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.”
The agency noted that rising incomes, population growth and urbanization are the driving forces behind a growing demand for meat products in developing countries.
To meet this rising demand, 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, according to FAO estimates.
The strong demand for animal food products offers significant opportunities for livestock to contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction. However, many smallholders are finding it difficult to remain competitive with larger, more intensive production systems.
“A widening gulf is emerging between those who can take advantage of growing demand for livestock products and those who cannot,” the agency warned, 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.
FAO 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.
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