A dish of livestock

Thoughts on Rural Development.


Source: Heinrich Böll Stiftung. (2014). Meat Atlas.

Growing up in Germany, livestock products such as meat, eggs or milk, came to our dinner table on a regular base. I remember my grandma saying that, for her generation, consuming animal products was something rather special. While the demand for animal products in the global north has increased over decades, it is now beginning to stagnate or even decline.

However, it is increasing rapidly in the BRIC countries, as well as in the global south. Consuming livestock products can be seen a sign of wellbeing and it contributes to an adequate and nutritious diet. Since the worldwide population and prosperity are growing, the demand for livestock products is increasing. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that the need of these goods will increase up to 70% by 2050.

According to FAO, around 1 billion poor depend on animals for income and food. In rural areas, the non-food use of livestock used to play the most important role to support the livelihood of people, bug due to new technologies and the growing income, the traditional purposes of livestock are replaced by the goal of generating food for humans. Since many farmers in rural areas lack important assets such as technologies, finances and knowledge needed for a sustainable agriculture, far-reaching consequences can be entailed.

Did you know that, according to the Stockholm Resilience Center, three of the nine planetary boundaries are highly influenced by agriculture and livestock production? In the last 50 years there were enormous changes in biodiversity as well as habitat losses, due to the increasing agricultural productivity. Furthermore, the worldwide land use has changed tremendously, mostly because land has been converted to agricultural or other human use. The growing demand of livestock products, and the raising use of fertilizers, also influences the nitrogen and phosphorus input. This leads to polluted waterways and may push marine and aquatic ecosystems across ecological thresholds. Furthermore, livestock production contributes to about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and therefore has a great impact on climate change.

The question occurs, how we can ensure a more sustainable use of agriculture and simultaneously improve food security in rural areas while contributing to poverty reduction?

One important approach has been submitted from FAO: Since stakeholders, such as producers, governments, civil society and international organisations, have realized the complexity of the challenges around the sector, they have joined forces and established the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock. The agenda aims to ensure continuous improvements by focusing on three main goals:

The approaches from the Global Agenda of Sustainable Livestock tackle important cross-cutting issues around sustainable farming and food security in poorer countries. However, I believe that we should all question our consumption of livestock products – do we really need animal products on a daily base, or would it be enough to have it every once in a while, so we can promote a more sustainable farming and contribute to worldwide food security?

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