Livestock program – the smallholder focus?

Blog post

The Livestock Agri-food Systems CGIAR Research Program aims to seize the opportunity presented by the rapid increase in demand for animal-source foods in developing countries, coupled with the current suppliers of these being many millions of smallholder farmers to help drive the transition to sustainable, resilient livelihoods and diets for future generations.

The starting point for the program is the fast-growing demand for animal-source foods in consumer food baskets in the developing world as incomes rise: between 2010 and 2050 demand for meat and milk in developing and emerging economies will double and poultry meat will triple. With regional and country differences, this increased demand is pervasive across all developing countries and all livestock commodities.

So far, this increased demand has been partly-met through increased numbers of animals rather than by significant improvements in productivity. Smallholder producers play a major part in this.

Many countries are looking to meet the demand by importing production know-how on an industrial scale, increasing imports from abroad, or a mix of both. A third way is to meet demand by transforming existing in-country smallholder and pastoral livestock systems.

A key assumption of this proposal is that the third scenario, transforming smallholder and pastoral livestock production systems, offers the greatest potential for a research program to help meet growing demands for animal-source foods in developing countries. It can improve the quality of low-income diets, reduce import costs and other negative side-effects, significantly reduce poverty and make more efficient use of natural resources.

The focus on smallholder systems is also strategic from an environmental and health perspective, with the opportunity to double smallholder livestock productivity simultaneously presenting the chance to halve greenhouse gas emissions from livestock production. For healthy livestock futures, ensuring that such increases in productivity come with concomitant appropriate drug use to mitigate the emergence of antimicrobial resistance, and management practices that prevent food safety risks are also important.


1. Does the focus of the program on smallholders make sense? Will we miss anything crucial in this focus?

2. In developing countries, should livestock research prioritize livestock ‘goods’ (eg., livelihoods, manure, traction, nutrition) or livestock ‘bads’ (eg., emissions, obesity, public health, water use)? How do we strike a correct balance?

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