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Enhancing global livestock advocacy for sustainable development

Some of the work going on at an end-of-project GLAD workshop held last week at ILRI, in Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Judy Kimani).

This article was written by Judy Kimani, communications and knowledge management specialist for ILRI’s Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods program.

Global Livestock Advocacy for Development (GLAD) has been a two-year project whose main objective has been to raise investor interest in livestock-related research-for-development issues. It has done this largely by distilling and presenting evidence and creative content about smallholder livestock systems and their critical roles in sustainable food systems and development. GLAD has also undertaken strategic engagement around sustainable livestock issues at targeted high-profile events and has strengthened capacity in livestock advocacy communications.

Members of the GLAD project, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, believe that underfunding of the livestock sector in developing countries is partly due to a global lack of awareness and understanding of livestock as well as negative views of livestock put forward in the media in industrialized nations. Effort has therefore been made to address three related problems:

  • A growing negative view of livestock in industrialized nations that threatens sustainable livestock-based livelihoods in poor countries.
  • Despite livestock’s importance to development, at global, regional and national levels, the sector is typically paid scant attention in wider agricultural and broader development discussions and policymaking, with cereal and export crops as well as large-scale food production and urban food consumption issues receiving the lion’s share of attention.
  • The absence of a strong community of advocates for sustainable livestock working at different levels to communicate livestock-related evidence in compelling ways to key stakeholder audiences and influencing important decision-making processes.

Led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the GLAD project developed products and engaged in activities to advocate for increased funding for sustainable smallholder livestock priorities. The means GLAD employed to achieve this included:

  • better, more communications-focused use of evidence to help change the conversation around livestock to focus on the importance of livestock development to smallholder livelihoods and the contribution of a sustainable livestock sector to delivering on the 2030 Agenda
  • direct engagement with policymakers at relevant regional and global policy fora
  • coordination of a community of practice for livestock stakeholders interested in advocacy work.

Specific project work included distilling evidence about smallholder and pastoral livestock systems in developing countries and assembling, synthesizing, presenting and communicating big opportunities for those livestock systems to contribute to sustainable development in three main areas.

Growth and equity: Livestock contribute to the livelihoods of an estimated one billion poor. Evidence was assembled, synthesized and presented through creative content products on: livestock and livelihoods, livestock and gender (equity), the competitiveness of smallholders in ensuring food supply, and ways that increasing demand for meat, milk and eggs in the developing world is creating to economic growth opportunities.

Nutrition and health: Livestock play both positive and detrimental roles in human nutrition and health. Evidence was assembled, synthesized and presented through creative content products on links between livestock and emerging diseases, human health and nutrition and demographic change.

Environment and climate change: Livestock are the main source of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions; equally important, future climate and land use change will affect the viability and sustainability of livestock production. Evidence was assembled, synthesized and presented through creative content products on: greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector, climate change impacts on livestock, and ecosystem services provide by the livestock sector.

The evidence distilled by project scientists was translated into a set of messages and options backed up by links to evidence and published online at

Project associates also made targeted interventions in high-impact events to make prominent how sustainable livestock development influences and benefits wider development issues. These interventions were supported by a series of media outreach activities drawing attention to significant evidence-based messages. The project’s communication tools and information products helped strengthen the capacity of those working within the project to advocate for sustainable livestock issues.

This project has used advocacy to help ensure that livestock’s central contributions to sustainable development are not overlooked and are adequately funded. Effort has been made to prioritize advocacy in the right fora by showcasing the many contributions livestock make to societies across the globe.

Going forward, members of the project hope to establish productive virtual communication networks and to moderate a vibrant community of practice that will help scale up the project’s impacts.

The two-year GLAD project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock. Overall leadership of the project was provided by ILRI’s assistant director general, Shirley Tarawali, and by the project’s principal investigator, Peter Ballantyne. The wealth of scientific content generated by the project was spearheaded by ILRI’s Policies, Institutions and Livelihoods program under the guidance of its leader, Steve Staal. Many of the project’s advocacy events and products were developed in close partnership with the international agricultural, food and health consulting firm EmergingAg, based in Canada and led by Robynne Anderson, and the global development communications company Marchmont Communications, based in the UK and led by Michael Hoevel.

For more information, please visit the following:
WhyLivestockMatter website
ILRI news items about, or generated by, the project
Third-party news associated with the project
Community of practice on sustainable livestock advocacy

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