Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

November is Livestock Month on Agrilinks: Sustainable Livestock, Sustainable Development

A warm welcome to the Agrilinks Livestock month! Over the course of November, we will highlight some of the roles the livestock sector plays in transforming livelihoods. Livestock provide brain-food for an expanding global population; economically support over half a billion poor people who are dependent on livestock for their livelihoods; and provide financial, risk management and environmental services. Our journey will take us to several developing countries to learn of progress and innovation. We will hear from a rich variety of dedicated livestock professionals along the way (look out for pastoralists renting camels, dairy farmers practicing agro-forestry, the Global Burden of Animal Disease initiative, private sector engagement, strengthen your connections to livestock knowledge networks and a lot more!).

We also hope to hear from you! Please contribute reactions to the blogs posted in the comments box or post a blog of your own. Let us know if you have feedback for the Livestock Team here at the Bureau for Food Security and what else you want to learn about. Contact me, Andrew Bisson, Livestock Specialist, USAID BFS and USDA FAS, by email to continue the discussion at abisson@usaid.gov.

This month we will hear from the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock, a multi-stakeholder platform which is spearheading sustainable livestock sector development through its cluster groups and action networks. We will gain insights from friends and colleagues in our wonderful implementer community, who engage every day in transformative livestock system change around the world, from thought leaders in the FAO and CGIAR agencies, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), our ground-breaking research community and the engine of sustainable growth, the private sector.

The livestock sector makes a substantial contribution to many of the SDGs, a point well-articulated in the FAO report, Transforming the livestock sector through the Sustainable Development Goals. The report presents credible approaches which indicate these goals are within our grasp but require livestock programming to take an integrated multi-disciplinary approach, avoid sector silos and ensure coordination and collaboration between all stakeholders– we are stronger together. 

A critical feature of livestock is its multi-functionality. Livestock provide a range of goods and services beyond the supply of animal source foods and income. They build resilience of vulnerable households, integrate with and enhance crop agriculture and support sustainable landscapes, biodiversity and the natural resource base when managed effectively.

We have chosen to focus on two functions in which the livestock sector makes substantive contributions, and which align to the overarching objectives of the Global Food Security Strategy. Firstly, we will hear about contributions livestock make to improving nutritional outcomes and then the role livestock play in building resilience, particularly in drylands.

To make a major contribution to multiple SDGs and ensure equitable and sustainable livestock development, our approaches and strategies must focus on smallholder farmers and pastoralists who currently produce 72 percent and 75 percent of animal derived foods in Africa and Asia respectively [1]. We must also broaden our approach to the wider food system and the related upstream and downstream small and medium enterprises which are embedded in these rapidly evolving systems as we strive for sustainable growth, while avoiding negative externalities that could impact rural employment, conflict, the natural environment and human health. There is also a special opportunity which we must seize to address pervasive gender issues through smart livestock sector programming.

Embracing livestock’s multi-functional characteristics, adopting multi-disciplinary approaches and collaborating through multi-stakeholder engagement and doing all this in a sustainable way are key guiding principles set out in the GFSS Investing in Livestock Market Systems Guidance. These approaches will support countries in their Journey to Self-Reliance. These are not simple challenges; however we firmly believe that we, the livestock development community, have a major role to play in helping our Global, Regional and in-country partners to meet these challenges.

As we begin this month, and as a tonic to those of us who spend perhaps a little too much time at the keyboard, I invite you to draw inspiration from a couple of short 3 minute videos showing the richness of our sector and the positive change we can support - a beautiful photo-film produced by our CGIAR research partner, the International Livestock Research Institute and a glimpse of productivity enhancing mastitis control action research in Rwanda, from our wonderful research team at the Feed the Future Livestock Systems Innovation Lab, University of Florida.


[1] Meat: the Future series  Options for the livestock sector in Developing and Emerging Economies to 2030 and Beyond, ILRI  http://www3.weforum.org/docs/White_Paper_Livestock_Emerging%20Economies.pdf