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Livestock plays a vital role in food security
This is part of a series of Harvest 2050 blog posts leading up to this year’s World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, where GHI will release our 3rd Global Agricultural Productivity Report® on October 17. Please join us!
Across the world demand is growing for animal food products as a result of rapid income and population growth. Such demand has been supported by major technological innovations and infrastructure improvements in developed and developing nations.
In the developing world, livestock is one of the fastest growing sectors of the agricultural economy. China produces six times more meat now than it did in 1980, accounting for 31% of global meat production. India contributes 15% of the world’s milk supply, having tripled production in the same time period. Overall, livestock contribute 40% of the value of agricultural output worldwide (FAO).
Livestock farming holds enormous potential for improving food security and poverty. Increasing the amount of quality protein in the diet is an essential component of good nutrition, particularly for children in their critical growth years. Ensuring greater productivity in the livestock sector depends on sustainable development efforts that provide farmers and pastoralists with access to technology, training, and resources.
There are many technologies that improve animal productivity and enable farmers to produce more with fewer resources, reducing the impact on the environment. GHI member company Elanco reports that through technological advancements, the US produces a pound of beef with 14% less water and 34% less land now than it did in 1977.
In developing countries, livestock are typically owned by men but raised and cared for by women. Empowering women to be more productive in this sector has powerful implications for their income and household nutritional status. Promising mechanisms for reaching resource-poor pastoralists include using a cooperative approach that links women’s groups to enterprise training and access to financing to meet local and regional demand for dairy and meat products.
Partnerships among governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations have often been extremely effective in providing farmers with valuable training and resources. Elanco and Heifer International, for example, supply Chinese farmers with animals and livestock management training. Those farmers often gift their animals to other people in their communities to create a cycle of sustainability. One remote village began raising pigs in 2010 and increased local incomes enough to pave hardtop onto a previously treacherous mountain road and open their village for commerce, fueling a cycle of growth for that village.
Read more from Elanco President Jeff Simmons about making safe, affordable and abundant food a global reality.