By Erica Oakley, Humanitas Global
“Farming is inherently a risky business, but food is a necessity,” said Cody Hopkins, a smallholder farmer in Arkansas who also noted that the biggest gap in successful sustainable farming is a value chain to tap into. This week, Heifer International and the Alliance to End Hunger held an event, Livestock for Livelihoods, at the U.S. Senate to shine a spotlight on the critical role of farming and how livestock can contribute to agricultural development and address food insecurity.
Livestock is an essential part of the agricultural sector in developing countries. In his keynote address, U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) stressed the crucial role that livestock plays in developing economies, not only as a source of food, but also as a source of income and a living economic asset and organic fertilizer.
Livestock also contributes to food security as an excellent source of high quality protein, which is vital for good nutrition, especially for malnourished children. A point stressed by Heifer President and CEO, Pierre Ferrari, “livestock and animal-based protein can help meet critical nutrition needs of mothers and children.”
Speakers addressed the demand-led response of a “livestock revolution” but the challenges that are also present, including concerns about the health of the animals. Trevor Tomkins, Founder and President of Venture Dairy, noted that in many poorer countries, animals are not getting the nutrients they need to survive – much less be productive. For example, cows in India were said to be only producing about one-tenth of what cows in the U.S. produce. While genetics do play a role, the major factor here is the lack of nutrition that the animals receive. To be able to increase milk production, it is necessary to ensure that animals are getting a balanced diet from their feed.
Antonio Rota, Senior Technical Advisor at International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), highlighted that there is not enough attention on getting finance to women. Rota noted that IFAD is working to train women because women that have access to capital and training equals better fed animals, much healthier animals and ultimately animals that will produce more.
Senator Boozman and others on the panel emphasized that we have to “we have to work together through public private partnerships to end hunger." More attention needs to be paid to impact of livestock in food security. David Bunn, Associate Director of Africa Programs in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Services at University of California Davis, spoke about the live-changing possibilities that livestock can give to those deep in poverty. A point further stressed by Ferrari: the livestock revolution is as important as the green revolution.