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Towards a sustainable, responsible and efficient livestock sector—Jimmy Smith at the Berlin Global Forum for Food and Agriculture


Kick-off event at Berlin’s tenth annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, Jan 2018 (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

This year’s GFFA in Berlin addressed
Shaping the Future of Livestock—Sustainably, Responsibly, Efficiently

The Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), held annually in Berlin, had its tenth anniversary this year, from 18 to 20 Jan 2018. The forum is an international annual conference on the future of the global agri-food industry organized and hosted by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in cooperation with GFFA Berlin e.V., the Senate of Berlin and Messe Berlin GmbH. Politicians, business people, scientists and members of civil society all take part in discussions of topics shaping agricultural policy.

This year the focus of the GFFA was livestock, specifically, how the future of livestock can be shaped to be more sustainable, responsible and efficient.

The forum’s ten expert panels this year covered a wide range of topics: 1 How livestock can help the world meet its Sustainable Development Goals; 2 Implementing animal welfare laws; 3 Africa’s livestock potential; 4 Alternatives in livestock feeding; 5 Solutions to challenges in the consumption of foods of animal origin; 6 Sustainable solutions for the livestock sector; 7 The climate, efficiency and welfare challenges of animal husbandry; 8 The contributions of Asian and Eastern European livestock farms and industries to global food security; 9 Antimicrobial resistance in Europe and beyond; and 10 More sustainable protein feed.

ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith served on a panel at the kick-off event for Berlin’s Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan).

A delegation from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) was involved in several of this year’s GFFA events, including the following.

(1) 18 Jan 2018: Kick-off event, with ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith serving on the panel.

(2) 18 Jan 2018: An expert panel organized by the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture and the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL) on the topic of ‘Food of animal origin 2030: Solutions to consumption driven challenges’, with ILRI Assistant Director General Shirley Tarawali giving the keynote presentation.

(3) 19 Jan 2018: An expert panel, ‘Sustainable solutions for the livestock sector: The time is ripe!’, co-hosted by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development BMZ, the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), ILRI, the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock (GASL) and the Livestock Global Alliance (LGA).

(4) 19 Jan 2018: A High-Level Panel of the European Commission on ‘The future of livestock production’, with ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith serving as a member of the panel.

(5) 20 Jan 2018: The Berlin Agriculture Ministers’ Conference, the world’s largest meeting of agriculture ministers and the political highlight of the conference. ILRI Director General Jimmy Smith served as a technical expert at this ministerial conference, which produced a communiqué formulating the common position of 69 agriculture ministers on the future of livestock, the recommendations of which are now being incorporated in international discourse on livestock and agricultural policies.

In addition to Smith, the four other members of the panel that kicked off the GFFA on 18 Jan 2018 were Blairo Maggi, Brazilian Minister of Agriculture; Peter Bleser, parliamentary state secretary at the German Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and master farmer; Julius Lwegaba, a representative of Welthungerhilfe (World Hunger Aid), a German non-governmental aid agency, Uganda; and Peter Giørtz-Carlsen, executive vice president and chief commercial officer Europe of Arla Foods.

Jimmy Smith prepares to help open the 3-day GFFA

ILRI’s Jimmy Smith made some of the following points in the panel discussion.

Although the solutions and trajectories for shifting to a more sustainable, responsible and efficient livestock future look very different, and will have very different starting points, depending on the local economy and environment, the kind of livestock raised and the system used to produce the animals, the overall aims of livestock stakeholders worldwide are similar if not the same—to produce food-producing animals in win-win-win ways that are sustainable, responsible and efficient. Below are some of the options that Smith mentioned suiting small-scale livestock keepers in low- and middle-income countries.

First, regarding global food and nutritional security, Smith said that some 50% of the meat, milk and cereals in the developing world are produced on smallholder farms that mix livestock raising with crop growing. This form of integrated crop-livestock farming, Smith said, presents significant opportunities to improve farm productivity in sustainable ways. For example, because the stalks and leaves of crops after their grain has been harvested are a major source of animal feed on these mixed farms, improving the quality and quantity of these crop residues can improve livestock productivity significantly without over-using natural resources.

To be responsible, he said, we should remember to take account of the essential and multiple roles that farm animals play in smallholder livelihoods and ensure that messages about the roles of animal production in food security are balanced. Studies in Zambia, for example, have shown that poor households that received a dairy cow increased both their own consumption of dairy products and their income from selling those products, the latter of which the households used to buy more nutritious diets.

And improving animal productivity in smallholder systems through development and use of better breeds, feeds and health will improve livestock efficiency by generating more livestock product per unit of input (labour, land, capital).

Other examples

Sustainable: More than three quarters of a  billion people depend directly on livestock for their livelihoods. In developing countries, animal agriculture provides nutritious food and the income to buy more nutritious food as well crop inputs, traction for ploughing, and manure for fertilizing the crop soils. Particularly for the most vulnerable livestock keepers, pastoralists in dryland areas, livestock losses due to droughts will send families into desperate poverty. Providing novel forms of livestock insurance can protect herders against such losses and support their livestock livelihoods.

Responsible: While overuse and poor use of antimicrobial drugs threaten human health, these drugs in developing countries remain essential for treating infectious livestock diseases that cause devastating animal losses. What’s needed is to make animal health products and information more available, to improve animal husbandry systems and feeding, and to provide greater access to vaccination and veterinary services. With this integrated approach, use of antimicrobial drugs in smallholder livestock production can be rationalized and reduced.

Efficient: Improving animal productivity in smallholder systems through better breeds, feeds and healthcare has great potential to mitigate the amount of greenhouse gases emitted  per unit of meat or milk produced. And developing better livestock vaccines is by far the most efficient and cost-effective way to reduce animal diseases and losses (the total benefits of having eradicated rinderpest, through vaccination, from Kenya alone is estimated to be nearly half a billion US dollars).


View ILRI images of the GFFA here and GFFA images here.

Watch a 3-minute animated video produced by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture to kick off the GFFA.

Read news clippings about the GFFA

Livestock are taking the limelight in global policymaking fora
ILRI News blog, 21 Feb 2018
Recognition of the importance of livestock in addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges, including meeting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, has been rising sharply in recent years among leading national, political, donor and international bodies. ILRI works with many of these organizations to help ensure that the world’s many diverse livestock systems evolve in ways that are efficient, profitable, sustainable and equitable.

Animal health and welfare, two cornerstones of sustainable, responsible and effective food production
ILRI News blog, 9 Feb 2018
Monique Eliot, director general of the OIE, leads a high-level panel discussion at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture, in Berlin, 19 Jan 2018. Improved animal health and welfare standards do more than improve animal health and welfare, as important as those are. Applying such standards can increase food production in ways that also protect the environment and enhance the resilience of livestock producers and systems.

Animal Protein Virtually Irreplaceable Part of ‘Children, Young & Elderly Diet’: DG, FAO
Business World (India) 25 Jan 2018
The world population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100, according to a report. As a result of this growing population, consumer behaviour will also change. Now, more and more people live in cities, which unfolds more challenges in farming for middle-class people.

GFFA discusses the future of animal husbandry
The Pig Site, 24 Jan 2018
A delegation from the Ministry of Agribusiness, led by Luis Miguel Etchevehere, actively participated in the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA). On this occasion, the German Presidency proposed as a topic of discussion, “Shaping the future of livestock in a responsible and efficient sustainable way”.

Agricultural Ministers Call for Action on Sustainable Livestock Production for SDG Implementation
International Institute for Sustainable Development, 23 Jan 2018
20 January 2018: Agricultural Ministers and representatives of international organizations participating in the tenth Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) stressed the need for action towards more sustainable, responsible and efficient livestock production and animal husbandry to address global challenges, including SDG 2 (Zero Hunger); SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being); and SDG 13 (Climate Action).

Agrarminister der Welt beschließen Umbau der Tierhaltung bis 2030
Top Agrar magazine (Germany), 22 Jan 2018
Über Lösungen, wie die Tierhaltung produktiver, gleichzeitig aber umweltschonender und mit mehr Tierwohl werden kann, diskutierten vergangene Woche über 2.000 Vertreter aus Politik und Wirtschaft, Wissenschaft und Zivilgesellschaft in zehn Fachpodien, zwei Ministertreffen und einem Wirtschaftspodium auf dem 10. Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin. In der Auftaktveranstaltung erinnerte der Generaldirektor des International…

Grüne Woche 2018: Abschluss 10. Global Forum for Food and Agriculture: Mit nachhaltiger Tierhaltung die Welternährung sichern (FOTO)
Finanzen (Germany), 21 Jan 2018
Querverweis: Bildmaterial ist abrufbar unter http://www.presseportal.de/bilder—Im Jahr 2050 werden auf der Erde zehn Milliarden Menschen leben. Mit dem Wachstum verändern sich auch die Konsumgewohnheiten. Immer mehr Menschen leben in Städten und eine wachsende Mittelschicht sorgt dafür, dass die Nachfrage nach Fleisch, Milch und Eiern rasant steigt. Wie kann es gelingen, die Tierhaltung…

Food is Political! 33,000 tell the world they are fed up with agri-industry
ARC2020 (Europe), 20 Jan 2018
33,000 citizens—including 160 tractor driving farmers—made their way through the winter streets of Berlin on Saturday to tell the world—food is political!

Sustainable livestock futures—BMZ, GIZ and ILRI at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture this week
ILRI News blog, 15 Jan 2018
For several days this week (18–20 Jan 2018), several scientific directors and staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)—Jimmy Smith, Shirley Tarawali, Dieter Schillinger, Lutz Merbold and Kristina Roesel—will be participating with several ILRI partners in the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA), held in Berlin, Germany.

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