Africa / Agriculture / ASSP / ILRI / Intensification / Livestock / Policy / Research / Spotlight

Unlocking the potential of Africa to scale livestock development, high-level conference

Kenya children drinking milk

Kenya children drinking milk (photo credit: ILRI/Dave Elsworth).

The African continent stands at a crossroads. Stimulated by rapid population, urbanization and per capita income rises, African economies are growing at unprecedented rates. The ‘sustainable intensification’ of agricultural systems offers greater food security, incomes, trade, and smallholder competitiveness. Failure could leave African states vulnerable to climate shock, rising food prices, and trade deficits.

Grabbing this bull by its horns, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the African Union-Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) have prepared a policy brief for the three-day high-level meeting on ‘feeding Africa’ starting today in Dakar, Senegal.

Only annual livestock productivity growth of at least 6% will be able to meet rising demand for livestock products domestically.

Improved livestock genetics, health and feed—guided by policies geared towards enabling a sustainable and business-friendly environment—are key to unlocking the potential of agriculture in Africa, according to the policy brief prepared by Barry Shapiro, senior livestock development advisor at ILRI and Simplice Nouala, chief animal production officer, AU-IBAR.

The ILRI/AU-IBAR brief ‘Unlocking Africa’s agricultural potential for transformation to scale African livestock development’, underlines the importance of smallholder mixed crop/livestock and pastoral systems in much of the continent where 60-80 % of rural households keep livestock as mobile and liquid assets, income generators, and for household food security and nutrition. Realistic goals for African livestock transformation over the next 15 years include a doubling of livestock production, of the contribution of livestock inputs into domestic industrial sectors and of exports and export earnings, a halving of domestic livestock product prices and the achievement of livestock relevant sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Projections following a ‘business as usual’ scenario indicate that, despite increases in investment and technological change, African producers will not be able to satisfy the growing demand for livestock products, including: expected consumption increases of 300% for milk and more than 600% for pork and poultry in the continent. This demand will only be met by increases in imports, which would lead to a doubling of the trade deficit to 20%. This is untenable for producers, consumers and the continent’s food security and is not a ‘sustainable’ scenario.

Only annual livestock productivity growth of at least 6% will be able to meet rising demand for livestock products domestically. This can only be achieved under a ‘sustainable intensification’ scenario, meeting priority development goals and maintaining the current trade deficit until 2050. Such projected increases in demand under this scenario offer major opportunities for market-driven growth for smallholder farmers and large-scale commercial producers.

The high-level conference, Feeding Africa—An Action Plan for African Agricultural Transformation, directly responds to the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Called by the incoming President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina, participants—African ministers, civil society leaders and members of academia—will discuss steps forward to develop the agenda for agricultural transformation on the continent. Under the auspices of Macky Sall, President of Senegal, the event is co-hosted with the African Union Commission and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

Download the full brief

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