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African animal agriculture: Grasping opportunities as a great livestock transition gets under way


Presentation (above) and abstract (below) by Jimmy Smith 

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith made a keynote presentation at the 6th All African Conference on Animal Agriculture (AACAA), held at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, in Nairobi, Kenya, 27–29 Oct 2014.

The slide presentation is above and a summary below.

Over the coming decades, global demand for animal-source foods is predicted to rise a great deal faster than that for crops, driven primarily by and in developing countries, where human populations are increasing and rising incomes and urbanization are driving changes in diets traditionally based on grains and tubers and now switching to include more milk, meat and eggs.

ILRI keynote at AACAA: Slide 3

Africa is outstanding in this regard, with recent estimates predicting milk demand to triple and consumption of monogastric products (pork, chicken meat and eggs) to increase by up to six-fold by 2050. Such unprecedented growth presents both opportunities and challenges for Africa’s animal agriculture.

ILRI keynote at AACAA: Slide 6

All of the themes of this year’s All Africa Conference on Animal Agriculture directly bear upon the continent’s ability to grasp these growth opportunities while mitigating any harm such growth could cause if not managed carefully. The growing demand for animal-source foods may be met in many different ways – not all of them beneficial in the short or longer terms.

ILRI keynote at AACAA: Slide 10

For example, countries that meet the growing demand through imports are likely to face significant foreign exchange shortages. On the other hand, proliferation of large-scale industrial livestock production systems within Africa could pollute environments, and/or put public health at risk and/or widen already large socioeconomic gaps.

ILRI keynote at AACAA: Slide 12

What we can and should do now is to use the window of opportunity that has opened to help Africa’s many small-scale food producers and sellers employ livestock as powerful instruments for transforming their livelihoods and the continent’s food systems both.

ILRI keynote at AACAA: Slide 13

We are now entering a great livestock transition period. (Over the coming years, it is expected that about one-third of today’s livestock keepers will move from subsistence to market-oriented enterprises while another third will leave the sector.)

ILRI keynote at AACAA: Slide 14

To help shape this transition for broad-based, safe and sustainable growth, we need, more than ever, livestock research conducted emphatically both in and for development.

  • We need research that not only helps smallholders raise their livestock productivity but also helps them do so in ways that conserve their natural resources and reduce greenhouse gases.
  • We need research that not only helps resolve the chronic livestock marketing problems of smallholders and herders but also promotes equitable growth, within households as well as communities.
  • We need research that not only refines the beneficial synergies between crop and livestock production but also encourages the commercialization of pastoral systems wherever possible.
  • We need research that not only offers well-paying jobs and livelihoods for millions of women and youth but also helps build home-grown innovation and capacity in livestock-related development.
  • This presentation makes use of recent reviews of ILRI’s four decades of livestock research to reflect on what could be a bold and formidable future for African animal agriculture.

Click here to see the slide presentation.

Jimmy Smith is the director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Visit to find out about the other ILRI@40 events.

Follow #ilri40 on Twitter.

Read recent blog posts about ILRI@40:

A major presentation on ‘the power of livestock’ to transform today’s resource-scarce agricultural lands, 27 Oct 2014

In Des Moines for the World Food Prize? Join the special BMGF-ILRI livestock roundtable this evening, 15 Oct 2014

ILRI turns 40: Nairobi headquarters marks the anniversary, 6 Oct 2014

This week ILRI hosts a major conference in Nairobi on livestock-based options for development, 29 Sep 2014

Livestock innovation systems: Research contributions from ILRI over the decades, 23 Sep 2014

Natural resources: Abundant or scarce? (That would depend on just how ‘natural’ we think human resources are), 18 Sep 2014

Livestock options to meet development goals: ILRI side event at Tropentag Conference in Prague, 17 Sep

ILRI@tropentag 2014: Livestock-based options for sustainable food and nutritional security and healthy lives, 16 Sep 2014

The International Livestock Research Institute turns 40–Join us at an ILRI@40 event!, 4 July 2014


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