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Meat Production : Modern methods negatively impact third world 

Livestock is different the world over. Applying first world principles to meat production in developing countries is not always the best approach. By Jimmy Smith.


Jimmy Smith heads the Kenya-based International Livestock Research InstituteKenya, 23 February 2015 - Talk of livestock these days is tinged with foreboding. We hear that livestock are bad for the environment, that they are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, that red meat is a factor in the global obesity epidemic, leading to public health crises. These concerns are legitimate. But they should not—must not—obscure the central importance of livestock to the livelihoods, health and well-being of some three billion people, many of whom are among the poorest on the planet. 

Nor must they detract from opportunities within the livestock sector – one of the fastest growing of all agricultural sectors – to address environmental, health, nutrition and food security challenges on a global scale. In fact, these problems are unlikely to be solved if livestock are excluded.




Decent diet

Consider the ongoing debate over the proper role of meat in our diets. Rarely in this discussion is a clear distinction drawn between the relatively rich people who make poor food choices (including over-consuming red meat and other rich foods) and the many poor people who basically have no food choices at all. And certainly not a choice of meat, which often is unaffordable, even though it could make a tremendous difference to their nutritional wellbeing.

It can feel almost heretical to remind people in rich countries that in most of the developing world both livestock production and consumption remain central to the lives and livelihoods of more than one billion people living on less than US$2 a day, which is more than the populations of the United States and European Union combined. But for this large swath of humanity, animal agriculture provides a reliable and nourishing source of food for their communities and a means of generating regular household income.



Traditional local-market based production makes more sense in many areas

One Cow or Two?

Livestock owners of the South typically have only one or two cows or a small herd of goats or sheep. It would be absurd to encourage them to abandon their livestock and livestock-based livelihoods. Instead, the focus should be on improving the health and productivity of their animals and expanding access to market opportunities. Livestock can be a critical foundation for improving rural livelihoods, transforming rural economies, and feeding the third world's rapidly growing and advancing urban populations, hungry for a tastier diet as well as the essential protein and nutrients contained in milk, meat and eggs.

Researchers have shown that small but important changes in livestock breeding can provide cattle that would help poor dairy producers in East Africa increase their production per animal up to a massive 300%. Similar opportunities abound in the informal ‘backyard’ poultry production operations that already are a major source of food and income for poor people in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. And it can be done with an eye toward health and safety and without resorting to the industrial approach common in developed countries.

Animals are much less efficient at producing basic food sources than grains

Livestock greenhouse gases are a legitimate concern, as they comprise about 14.5% of such human-induced emissions. Herein also lies a huge opportunity: livestock’s contribution to climate change can be significantly reduced by improving the diets of cattle and other ruminant farm animals in developing countries, which subsist today largely on grass and crop ‘residues’—the stalks and leaves of crops that remain after their grain has been harvested. Providing affordable, more digestible feeds—and not grains that people consume—would address a key reason livestock in the developing world produce more gas per unit of product than their cousins in wealthy countries: poor diets.

Greedy Westerners

We also can confront the widely diverging levels of consumption of livestock products. The recommended amount is about 90 grams (three ounces) of meat per day. On a per capita basis, US consumers typically eat three times that amount while consumers in Botswana eat less than half. By 2050, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change sees a potential to save up to 15 gigatons of CO2 –twice the annual greenhouse gas emissions generated by today’s total global livestock sector—if everyone in the world adopted the daily diet recommended by the World Health Organization. Doing this, of course, would require some of us to cut back on our daily intake of animal-source foods and others to improve their nutrition by consuming more.

So what does all this mean? It means farm animals are very different the world over—valued most in rich countries for the food they produce and in poor countries most for the livelihoods and incomes they provide. Embracing such diverse perspectives will help us help solve the problems livestock present today while enhancing the many—and many unacknowledged—benefits they provide.

Jimmy Smith is director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Nairobi, Kenya.

Email: j.smith @cgiar.org


FAO Report 2014: Fish Farm and Feed Issues

More people than ever before rely on fisheries and aquaculture for food and as a source of income, but harmful practices and poor management threaten the sector’s sustainability, says a new FAO report published today.

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Forest Policies Needed With Social & Economic Focus

National policies and programmes should have a stronger focus on the potential of forests to reduce poverty and spur rural development. FAO's flagship publication The State of the World's Forests(SOFO), presented today at the opening of the 22nd Session of the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO), shows that a significant proportion of the world population relies on forest products to meet basic needs for energy, shelter and some aspects of primary healthcare - often to a very high degree.

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Climate-smart Agriculture - FAO Success Stories

Rome, 6 June 2014 - FAO publication highlights success stories in "climate-smart agriculture" and stresses need to transition to new approach to food production. Shifting world agriculture to a "climate-smart" approach will not only help prevent future food security crises but holds the promise of sparking economic and agricultural renewal in rural areas where hunger and poverty are most prevalent.

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PNG: Contested Palm Oil Leases Declared Illegal 

he National Court of Papua New Guinea (PNG) has declared that two large land development leases claimed by Malaysia-based Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad (KLK) in the Collingwood Bay region of PNG are void and has ordered the State to cancel the title deeds.

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The Haze, Hazier Deals and the Fiery Blame Game  

The smog caused mostly by Indonesian forest and plantation fires in June 2013 has triggered a blame game, which does not help solve any problem let alone cast the spotlight on who is really responsible for the environmental havoc. Mallika Naguran offers some clues based on a RETRAC model to help readers navigate through these hazy issues.

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Small Scale Farming: Do NGOs Help or Hinder?

A three-year study of small-scale farming in Africa, Asia and Latin America has prompted calls for a major rethink of approaches that aim to help. By Jeremy Torr.

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Land Grab and Conservation Conference

London, 21 March 2013. Researchers will meet at London Zoo on 26-27 March to join the dots between large land deals, conservation, land rights and efforts to tackle poverty in poor communities worldwide.

Speakers will present research on both impacts of land grabs on conservation and its reverse – the role of conservation as a driver of land grabs. They will also share studies that show how stronger land rights can improve conservation outcomes.

The issues are burning because worldwide large land deals are on the increase, and they often take place in areas that are home to both large numbers of poor people and important biodiversity. People and wildlife can lose out when investors acquire land for large scale agriculture.

At the same time, there are growing threats from ‘green grabs’ that displace communities in order to conserve wildlife or gain value from eco-tourism, biofuels or the carbon that forests store in their wood.

The meeting in London—organised by the International Institute for Environment and Developmentthe International Land Coalition, the Zoological Society of London and Maliasili Initiatives — is the international symposium of the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group.

Speakers will present case studies from Cameroon, Uganda, Chile, Kenya, Mongolia, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Liberia and Cambodia.

“The global rush for land threatens to squeeze out both poor communities with weak land rights, and wild species and habitats that we should be conserving,” says Dilys Roe, a senior researcher at IIED, which convenes the Poverty and Conservation Learning Group. “It is in the interests of both the conservation and land rights communities to tackle the land rush. One solution is for them to work more strategically together to secure or strengthen local land rights in ways that bring both conservation and development benefits.”

“Secure land tenure is a foundation of community-driven conservation efforts around the world,” says Fred Nelson, Executive Director of Maliasili Initiatives, which supports sustainable natural resource management efforts in Africa. “The current land crisis provides an opportunity for conservation, development, and human rights groups to work together to address historically-rooted weaknesses in the recognition of local communities’ land rights, and to enable communities to better secure their territories and the natural resources on which their livelihoods depend.”

Download the conference agenda



Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative

An international effort to ensure good governance of natural resources could do more to improve accountability and sustainability, according to research in the oil- and gas-rich Caspian Sea Region that the International Institute for Environment and Development has published today.

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Smart Rice Cultivation: Plastic Tube Irrigation Saves Water and Boosts Harvest

Rice is the world's most popular grain crop. But it uses vast amounts of water to grow. A new and simple technology could reduce water wastage by up to 30% for rice growers.

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Reviving the Coconut Industry of the Philippines 

Coconut is an emblem of Mati’s existence. About 27 thousand hectares of its total land area of 79,109 hectares is planted to coconut, with 18 thousand farmers cultivating the vastness and the richness of the area that spells livelihood for thousand of people in the locality.

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Goat Raising Offers Income Opportunity for Farmers.  

In the Philippines , more and more people are now raising goats -- in their farms, in their backyards, and even in their ranches! “We have been raising goats since the early 1970s and we have observed that the demand for the animal has been increasing.

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Tropical Storms and Deforestation Effects in Southern Philippines

Ten days before the Philippines would celebrate Christmas, tropical storm Sendong (international name: Washi) hit Mindanao. A look at a few factors that caused the tragedy of deaths and loss of homes.

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Sustainable Business Investments to Jump Up To 24 Percent in 2012, says New Report

According to a recent report from analysts Verdantix, overall investment in sustainability across the US, Canada, UK and Australia will jump to US$52bn in 2012; up to a 24 percent increase.

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Reef Fish Decline: Seafood Restaurants Contribute to Declining Grouper, Wrasse, Snapper Numbers

With reef fish numbers declining around the world, dining at a fish restaurant comes under increasing question unless the species is sourced either sustainably or from a local fish farm.

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Farming in Cities Could Help Feed the World

With traditional food production under threat from climate change, we should switch from agriculture to cell culture, says Lucía Atehortúa. If climate change begins to limit the global production of food and energy crops, it will be necessary to develop a new system of food production.

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Africa Can Be Food Self-sufficient

African nations can break dependence on food imports and produce enough to feed a growing population within a generation despite extra strains from climate change, a study said on Thursday. Research into new crops resistant to heat, droughts or floods, better support for small-scale farmers and greater involvement by national leaders in setting policies in sectors from transport to education were needed, it said.

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Coconut Uses and Benefits from Food to Building Materials

Coconut brings many natural products, including foods, drinks, fibers, building materials, and chemicals. Although not a native of the Philippines, coconut is considered as God’s gift to Filipinos.

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Investments in Philippine Farmers to Produce Milk Locally

The Philippines has not achieved self-sufficiency in milk because there is not enough investments in dairy and there are not enough animals on the ground to support the huge demand.

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Accelerated Soil Erosion Affects Crop Cultivation and Productivity

Although more than 99% of the world’s food comes from the soil, experts estimate that each year more than 10 million hectares of crop land are degraded or lost as rain and wind sweep away topsoil. An area big enough to feed Europe has been so severely degraded it cannot produce food, UN figures show.

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