Limiting meat consumption: what about countries that have no alternatives?

The consumption of meat, milk and eggs is under pressure because more and more people are aware of how harmful the sector is for the climate and the environment. In addition, the health benefits of these products are also very questionable. ‘A tale that is popular in the North, but has a great influence on the South, where many live off their livestock,’ say critics.

‘Meat, milk and eggs are not good for your health. Livestock farming is harmful to the environment’. The increasing negative stories about the dairy and meat sector’s contribution to climate change have an impact on livestock farming. It is not insignificant to know that it is a sector that currently serves more than 1.3 billion people in the world.

In Africa, for example, livestock means life. Livestock provide food and jobs, income and are a source of cultural significance. But the benefits of raising cattle, goats, sheep and pigs are lost when the environmental impact of livestock farming is taken into account.

In Africa, for example, livestock means life. Livestock provide food and jobs, income and are a source of cultural significance.

And livestock farmers in Africa are feeling this now, where they increasingly encounter low investments in livestock farming. In the past, their livestock was a source of economic growth and a means of achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Some researchers, farmers and entrepreneurs are therefore calling for a balanced discussion regarding livestock farming. They see livestock not as a problem, but as a solution to tackling climate change, especially in developing countries.

Livestock and food security in Africa

For example, Ian Wright, deputy director-general of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi, Kenya, admits that livestock farming is much talked about today because of its negative impact on the environment. He also knows the story that milk, meat and eggs should be avoided as much as possible, but it is also one of the fastest growing economic sectors in Africa, he says.

‘Livestock farming looks very different in different regions of the world, and the cultural importance and economic importance varies widely. The contribution of livestock to food security in Africa is absolutely crucial,” says Wright. He adds that the majority of people in Africa are more likely to eat insufficient protein and micronutrients, in contrast to the situation in the Nordics, where people benefit from eating less meat and animal foods.

Global discussions on livestock are usually dominated by voices from the North, so it is important that we ensure that perspectives on the role of livestock in the Global South, including Africa, are heard at the negotiating tables at global events such as the upcoming climate summit. in Egypt. Although the sector has its challenges, we also want to be able to highlight the positive aspects of the livestock’s role,’ says Wright.

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© Herve Bossy (Veterinarians without borders)

“For example, climate variability makes harvesting certain crops risky, but on land where no crops grow, livestock can still be raised for food.”

Claw print

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), livestock accounts for about 40 percent of the value of agricultural production, while supporting the livelihoods and food security of billions of people worldwide.

A growing population and rapid urbanization also lead to a great hunger for animal foods such as eggs, milk, beef and pork.

A growing population and rapid urbanization also lead to a great hunger for animal foods such as eggs, milk, beef and pork: these are just some of the best and often most affordable sources of protein. Livestock provide energy-rich feed with high nutritional value and are therefore an important source of nutrition for pregnant women and especially children in the first thousand days of life.

However, scientists are aware of the enormous “hoofprint” of cattle. FAO calculations show that global livestock emissions account for 14.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle in particular are responsible for most emissions, largely of the dangerous methane gas: around 65 percent of emissions from the livestock sector. As a result, there is an active movement encouraging people to stop eating meat. Instead, they demand investment in a plant-based diet that promotes health and protects the environment.

Malnutrition is increasing

But back to Africa, one of the regions of the world where malnutrition is increasing. More and more Africans suffer from hunger and access to nutritious food is scarce. Livestock is a solution, some food experts say.

The World Bank notes that Africa loses between 3 and 16 percent of its GDP annually as a result of stunted childhood growth. Animal foods can help mitigate that problem, says Adegbola Adesogen, director of the Food Systems Institute and Feed the Future Innovation Lab at the University of Florida.

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“We need to prioritize animal foods and increase access to protein-rich foods across Africa,” says Adesogen. “In Africa, very little food of animal origin is consumed. For example, meat consumption in Nigeria is less than five percent of what is consumed in Argentina,’ she says. “But animal foods contain an abundance of essential macro- and micronutrients that are essential for children in Africa.”

Integrated farm

The livestock sector attracts little investment compared to other agricultural sectors, but contributes up to 40 percent to agricultural GDP in Africa. Of the $129 billion in ODA in 2020, only 1.3 percent went to livestock, Wright notes.

“Animal foods contain an abundance of essential macro- and micronutrients that are vital for children in Africa.”

Farmer Emma Naluyima from Uganda has combined crop and livestock farming into a thriving farm on one hectare of land. She says support for the policy is critical to promoting livestock farming and the ultimate livelihood of livestock farmers.

Naluyima came to tell his story at the 2022 Alliance for a Green Revolution Forum in Rwanda, organized by ILRI. In the panel discussion, she emphasized that livestock are productive and profitable when farmers are guided and supported to do it correctly. For example, Naluyima’s integrated farm is strong in recycling natural waste to produce natural fertilizers, pesticides and biogas. She generates $100,000 in revenue annually.

According to Wright, livestock can solve several food system challenges in Africa. For a continent that bears the double burden of a lack of nutrition and also a lack of energy, food from livestock can reduce malnutrition for the most vulnerable communities, he says.

He believes that there is a need for a correct policy and a balanced narrative about livestock farming. ‘It can attract investment and stimulate economic growth in Africa.’

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