Livestock for Livelihoods
August 14, 2014
Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO, Heifer International
International development experts are grappling with ways to effectively combat stubborn global malnutrition. Renewed attention to agricultural development has helped, but gaps remain that crops and horticultural products alone cannot fill.
On July 23rd, The Alliance to End Hunger and Heifer International hosted “Livestock for Livelihoods,” an event on Capitol Hill to increase awareness among U.S. Congressional members and staff from key U.S. and U.N. agencies about the critical role livestock can take in addressing hunger, malnutrition and poverty. Speakers represented diverse interests from a multilateral agency, the U.S. private sector, academia, the U.S. Congress, the USDA and smallholder farmers.
The event started with a keynote address from Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who is on the Senate Committees for Agriculture and Appropriations and is a Senate Hunger Caucus co-chair. “Livestock play a crucial role to rural economies and small farmers in the developing world,” Boozman said.
He was followed by Dr. Muquarrab Qureshi, the Deputy Director of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Qureshi outlined how gains in productivity and animal genetics allow U.S. farmers to feed more people with fewer animals. Exporting these productivity-enhancing gains abroad is critical to addressing the food security challenges posed by the projected population of 9 billion by 2050.
Each member of the panel emphasized different points on how animal-sourced foods and micronutrients contribute to food security and
poverty alleviation. David Bunn, Associate Director for Africa Programs at UC-Davis, emphasized, “Science has proven that for the micronutrients that are key for children under 3 years of age, the best possible source of those nutrients are animal-based sources.” Trevor Tomkins, Founder and President of Venture Dairy, emphasized the importance of empowering women livestock farmers and their inclusion in food value chains to improve household nutrition and food security. He argued that environmental damage—specifically climate change emissions—commonly attributed to smallholder farmers’ livestock has incorrectly turned the development community away from a powerful tool – livestock – for addressing hunger and poverty. Antonio Rota, Senior Livestock Adviser at IFAD, stressed the importance of public-private-producer partnerships (PPPP) and sharing knowledge across sectors so that smallholder livestock farmers are reached by comprehensive agricultural development programs. Cody Hopkins, an Arkansan smallholder farmer, underscored the importance of programs to unite smallholder farmers into cooperatives to leverage resources and gain collective negotiating power. “One farm by itself is not very efficient. But 10 or 12 or 50 farms working together, sharing a value chain, can be very efficient,” Hopkins said.
Agricultural development programs and projects need to include livestock to comprehensively address food insecurity and poverty. Appropriately integrating smallholder farmers—especially women and youth—into larger value chains is tremendously important. If properly managed—environmentally, socially, and economically—the Livestock Revolution has the potential to have an even greater impact than the Green Revolution.