Livestock: new sub-committee offers new policy paths

The first meeting of the Livestock Sub-Committee, a technical forum for members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to advise the work of the Organization, began today. a three-day virtual session today.

The establishment of the Sub-Committee was endorsed in 2020 by the Committee on Agriculture (COAG), one of FAO’s governing bodies that provides overall policy and regulatory guidance on matters relating to agriculture (including livestock), food safety, nutrition, rural development and natural resource management. The Livestock Sub-Committee, comprised of 131 countries plus the European Union as well as observers from United Nations (UN) agencies and other international organizations, will discuss and build consensus on specific issues and priorities related to the livestock sector. As the first governing body established and operational under the tenure of FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, the Sub-Committee will advise COAG, and through it the FAO Council and FAO Conference, on technical and policy needs to optimize how livestock can contribute to core mandates such as poverty reduction, food security and nutrition, sustainable livelihoods and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Globally, we face a number of serious issues; especially the increase in hunger and malnutrition, poverty, climate crisis, conflict, loss of biodiversity and degradation of natural resources… Livestock can help address these challenges,” said Qu in his opening address to the session. Many of the world’s poorest people depend directly on livestock for their livelihoods, and livestock value chains are the world’s third largest source of income after agricultural production and off-farm employment, he said. he adds.

“Sustainable livestock systems are at the interface of the four bests set out in FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-2031: better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life for all, leaving no one behind. “, Qu noted.

The Sub-Committee will highlight the diversity of livestock systems and the varied roles that livestock play in contributing to food security, nutrition, livelihoods and inclusive economic growth, while minimizing the negative environmental impacts when managed sustainably, he said. Its success “will depend on the collective support, active engagement and contributions of all of us”, said the Director-General, calling for efficient, effective and coherent collaboration.

Exploit synergies, manage trade-offs

The Livestock Sub-Committee was created to propel the transformation of the livestock sector as needed to maximize benefits while managing challenges – which range from micronutrient deficiencies in some populations to notable vulnerability of communities pastoralists to the climate crisis and the risks of biodiversity. the loss and ineffective management of land as well as the growing global threat of antimicrobial resistance.

It is responsible for identifying and discussing major trends and issues in the global livestock sector, advising on the preparation of technical reviews on relevant issues, advising on mechanisms for preparing, facilitating and implementing implementation of action programs.

Global demand for livestock products is expected to increase by up to 50 percent by 2050, almost entirely in developing countries where the dietary benefits of animal source foods are often less accessible, creating many economic opportunities , more of which should be made available to women. and youth. At the same time, animal production systems are large users of natural resources, can contribute to land degradation and environmental pollution, and emit greenhouse gases. In addition, diseases such as peste des petits ruminants can cause heavy losses to the sector and disrupt trade flows, while variants of avian influenza can threaten public health and disrupt trade flows.

“We are all aware of these issues and business as usual is no longer an option. And we are also aware that the livestock sector can contribute to the solution,” the Director General said, stressing the need for a careful planning to exploit synergies and manage trade-offs between different priorities.

FAO’s extensive work in livestock highlights the need for such planning and shows how livestock can provide healthy diets, support resilience and livelihoods, enable food production on marginal lands where agricultural production is inefficient, play a central role in the One Health approach and contribute to ecosystem services through nutrient cycling and soil carbon sequestration. FAO, using evidence-based tools and guidelines, works with governments, farmers, businesses and communities on a range of issues such as food safety, inclusive markets, disease surveillance and response, feed optimization and the promotion of best practices in animal health and welfare.

The world’s livestock systems are notable for their diversity, which provides an opportunity to scale up climate solutions. FAO has pioneered research on how to reduce the carbon footprint of livestock and its research has shown how wider adoption of best practices and technologies in feed, health, husbandry and management manure can help reduce GHG emissions by up to 30 percent. FAO’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM) and its interactive version (GLEAM-i) enable global and national assessments of emissions and of technology and policy options to reduce them. Other technical tools that FAO has developed to assist Members include the Self-Assessment and Holistic Assessment of Climate Resilience for Farmers and Herders (SHARP) tool, the EX-Ante Carbon Footprint (EX-ACT), the Livestock Sector Investment and Policy Toolkit (LSIPT) and the Agroecological Performance Assessment Tool (TAPE).

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