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India’s smallholder farmers are having a ‘livestock moment’


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Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), gave one of three keynote presentations at the recent Agricultural Research Congress, held in Karnal, India, at the National Dairy Research Institute, from 3 to 6 Feb 2015.

Smith began by reminding his audience of some 1,000 people why livestock matter globally for livelihoods, e.g.:

  • 1.5 billion people live on smallholder farms
  • India has 130 million smallholders farms (of less than 4 hectares in size)
  • Smallholders produce 80% or more of the food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa
  • 43% or more of smallholders are women
  • Up to 1 billion people depend on livestock for their livelihoods, food security, income, crop nutrients, traction, and means of coping with the risks of crop failure and other shocks

The ILRI director general then explained why this is a ‘livestock moment’ for India’s many millions of smallholder farmers.

Slide #3

Image credits: (left) Kolkata Trans, 2000s, by Bengali artist Rupban Chitrakar (via Kalarte) and (right) Cow boy (IV) by Sekhar Roy (via US-India Art and Culture Exchange Center).

Here are four big opportunities Smith described for today’s small-scale livestock producers.

Slide #4

Image credit: Cow and Calf, by Jamini Roy (via MyArtTracker).

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Image credit: Sacred Cows, by Vidushini (via Novica).

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Image credit: Untitled, by Kalam Patua (via Asia Art Archive).

But Smith cautioned his audience that India can go three ways to meet the rising demand for animal-source foods, and only one way will be sustainable and equitable.

In the first scenario Smith described, India would meet the rising demand largely by importing meat, milk and eggs.

Slide #25

Image credit: Handcarved wood print block stamp of a goat in India (via Etsy).

In the second scenario, India would meet the demand by importing knowhow about industrial livestock production systems.

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Only a third scenario, Smith said, would be good news for India. This would have India meet the rising demand of its citizens for animal-source foods largely by transforming the country’s vast smallholder livestock sector.

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Image credit: Kalighat painting (via Pinterest).

And of course India has already shown that this transformation of smallholder agriculture is possible.

Slide #28

View the whole presentation by Jimmy Smith, Livestock, livelihoods and the future of India’s smallholder farmers.

One thought on “India’s smallholder farmers are having a ‘livestock moment’

  1. Reblogged this on ILRI Asia and commented:
    ILRI’s Director General Jimmy Smith delivered one of the keynote presentations at the 12th Agricultural Science Congress in Karnal, India on 3-6 February 2015. Learn more about it by reading the article written by Susan MacMillan, ILRI’s Head of Public Awareness.

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