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The multiple benefits of livestock are in focus this week as experts meet in Ethiopia

Fritz Schneider, GASL chair

Fritz Schneider, chair of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (photo credit: ILRI/Apollo Habtamu).

More than 250 livestock experts from over 50 countries are exploring ways of ensuring that the long-term benefits of livestock contribute to sustainable development. They’re participating in the 7th Multi-Stakeholder Partnership meeting of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL), in Ethiopia, this week.

The 8–12 May 2017 meeting was officially opened by His Excellency Professor Fekadu Beyene, Ethiopia’s minister for livestock and fisheries, on Monday in the capital, Addis Ababa.

‘This meeting will enable us to share the multiple benefits we’re deriving from sustainable livestock initiatives, including those supported by the Ethiopia Livestock Master Plan (2015) and Growth and Transformation Plan Two (GTP 2)’, said Beyene.

The minister highlighted the Ethiopian government’s ambitious steps to efficiently utilize its vast livestock resources and make the sector a driver of the transformation of the country’s agriculture-based economy. These measures include providing good-quality farm inputs at affordable prices, boosting small-scale irrigation schemes, minimizing post-harvest losses and controlling and eradicating major livestock and livestock-transmitted human diseases.

‘Ethiopia is keen to learn from others’ knowledge and experiences to enhance the country’s capacity to practice sustainable livestock to reduce poverty and increase food security,’ the minister said.

Beyene highlighted drought resilience initiatives supported by the Ethiopian government and development partners, which he said helped the country better manage the impacts of the severe drought Ethiopia and other countries of the Horn of Africa have experienced in recent months. Other measures boosting livestock production in the country include irrigating pasture lands, creating fodder banks and improving livestock husbandry practices and market access by the poor.

Representatives of organizations co-hosting the event also spoke during the opening.

Her Excellency Misrak Mekonnen, Ethiopia’s state minister for livestock and fisheries, said that participants in the meeting will discuss how livestock-based solutions can contribute to sustainable development.

Fritz Schneider, chair of GASL, said the partnership is based on the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development. ‘The Global Agenda provides a platform, regionally and locally rooted, to comprehensively address the multiple opportunities the livestock sector presents for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).’

‘Participants will discuss tools to facilitate sustainable livestock sector development and cases of practice change will be demonstrated. Learning tours will also show successful local efforts towards sustainable sector development,’ Schneider added.

Ren Wang, assistant director general for agriculture and consumer protection at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said the Global Agenda is ‘uniquely positioned to promote the livestock sector, which generates widespread benefits for people and the planet’.

‘Agriculture, which includes livestock, lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda and both sectors seek to address the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development simultaneously,’ Wang said. ‘FAO is committed to ensuring the livestock sector contributes to food security and the elimination of poverty while reducing the sector’s environmental footprint and resource use.’

FAO is actively involved in and hosts the secretariats of GASL and the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) partnership. It is also supporting the Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 and other initiatives that are developing tools and models, such as the Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM), and guidelines to monitor the development of the sector.

‘This week’s dialogue will help ensure that livestock continue to yield long-term benefits. Our goal is to work toward that for the long-term and ultimately reach a zero-hunger world,’ Wang said.

Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), said the meeting was special for ILRI, one of the founder members of the partnership.

The Global Agenda provides a forum for ILRI to move from theory to practice at the interface of livestock and development.
—Jimmy Smith

Smith said this year’s meeting, which is taking place in Ethiopia, ‘one of ILRI’s homes’, involves more ILRI scientists than ever before and comes at an opportune time when the institute is seeking to ensure its livestock research solutions get taken to scale.

The year’s meeting will share and discuss progress in the development of tools and models to monitor sustainable livestock sector development. It will articulate lessons from successful tool application and practice change. It will also identify opportunities that GASL and its members can exploit to ensure multiple benefits accrue from sustainable livestock development.

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