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Animal agriculture research director envisions developing-world livestock sector in 2054

Jimmy Smith and Kanayo Nwanze

ILRI director general Jimmy Smith (left) introduces IFAD president Kanayo Nwanze to guests at the ILRI@40 conference in Addis Ababa on 6 Nov 2014; Kanayo gave the keynote address at ILRI’s conference (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), provided a vision of what he thinks livestock production in the developing world will look like in 2054, 40 years from now. He presented this on the first of a two-day conference being held this week (6–7 Nov 2014) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to mark the 40-year anniversary of ILRI.

If much of the first day’s conference discussions looked back and took stock of where livestock research for development is today, Smith’s summary reflections at the close of the first day set the scene for discussions on the second day (today), which are focusing on how the fast-evolving developing-world livestock sector will change in the coming 40 years, and what research can, and should, do to help steer the on-going transitions in the sector to benefit all.

Smith began by noting how many of the first day’s speakers had focused on the complexity of the smallholder livestock sector (e.g. in comments by Bill Gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, John McDermott of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health and Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization).

If livestock is as important as we all say it is, Smith asked, ‘Why does it get so little traction in development circles? I suspect it’s partly because we don’t know how to talk the language of our development partners. And we don’t have the data we need to build our case. And it seems we are struggling here today to envision what the world will look like 40 years from now. Here’s what I see regarding ‘livestock futures”.’

By 2054
Demand for animal-source foods will grow: Per capita consumption of livestock products will have increased to 30 kg per year in Africa and to 70 kg per year in Asia.

This rising demand will be supplied one way or the other. What we don’t known is whether the one billion poor people relying on livestock for some or all of their livelihoods will take part in this ongoing ‘livestock revolution’.

Smallholder farmers today provide 70% of the world’s animal-source foods.

The number of smallholder farmers will have declined by 2054 to one-third of the number we have today.

While the supply of livestock products increases, the total number of farm animals will decline significantly from the 37 billion existing at any one time today.

Africa will be a major exporter of beef and poultry.

Indian dairy will be viewed in the same way as dairy in the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA is today. And India’s milk production will mostly be from buffaloes, which will be the world’s number one milk animal.

How will the above be achieved?
Rapid genetic improvement has improved the performance of tropical breeds – in 2054 they are not only highly adapted but also high producing.

A shift has occurred from hazard- to risk-based approaches to trade. The key question has become: ‘Does the product have a risk?’ rather than ‘Is the product a potential hazard?’. Barriers to trade have rapidly declined.

Competitiveness of the developing-world livestock sector has been enhanced by inclusion of environmental factors in the prices of livestock products. Incorporating these externalities has changed livestock prices significantly.

Market differentiation for livestock products has become far more important than it is today, with more emphasis on factors such as social parameters.

Pastoralists have become both producers of meat and custodians of their environments and animal biodiversity: Returns from payments-for-environmental services have become significant.

We’re not feeding monogastrics (pigs and poultry) in Africa on maize but rather on sorghum-, millet- and cassava-based feeds.

Will there still be an ILRI?
Our job as livestock-for-development researchers, as I see it, is to help smallholder livestock keepers and marketers become more productive and competitive. We have to move out of our scientific comfort zones and address the political and institutional constraints smallholders face. We have to respond with scale-neutral women-friendly technologies. We have to work with and through whole value chains.

There are still more questions than answers in 2054. But as ILRI tackles these questions, this institute will be an even more important source for those seeking answers to these important questions, and ILRI will be providing answers that continue to make the biggest difference to great numbers of people.

Watch the video

One thought on “Animal agriculture research director envisions developing-world livestock sector in 2054

  1. I am rather excited by your comments on the prospect of tropical animals to be more adapted and productive.How do you envision the impact of climate change and it’s impact on environmental variables responsible for animal production in the topics?

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