Archive for the ‘Livestock’ Category

Dec22

Innovation of the Week: Community Animal Health Workers

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By Brandon Pierce

Animal health services for livestock owners in several parts of sub-Saharan Africa are limited because of poor infrastructure and high delivery costs. To address this deficiency, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has supported the training and use of Community Animal Health Workers (CAHWs) in these regions. CAHWs are community members who have been trained in basic animal health care. The FAO is taking steps to standardize how CAHWs are trained and to connect them with reliable sources of needed drugs and materials.

Community Animal Health Workers help livestock owners provide basic healthcare for their animals. (Photo Credit: iyufera.com)

In Ethiopia, government supply systems often run out of the drugs livestock owners need for animal healthcare, which makes it difficult for CAHWs to effectively care for livestock. To meet the high demand for drugs, the FAO has worked to establish private pharmacies in Ethiopia and establish partnerships with CAHWs. So far, these efforts have been successful: over 30 pharmacies have been established, and these pharmacies have been linked to 600 CAHWs. To further improve CAHW programs, the Ethiopian government has developed minimum requirements and standards—such as the availability of training manuals for workers.

Kenya has also benefitted from the FAO’s CAHW program. During the 1990s, many Kenyan livestock owners were unable to afford the cost of treatment for their animals. Today, various CAHW programs—including the Community Livelihood Empowerment Project—have improved the availability of animal healthcare, reduced the cost of treatment, and ultimately improved livestock owners’ livelihoods.

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Nov10

UN Says Sustainable Farming Can Help Close Global Emissions Gap

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By Sophie Wenzlau

Agriculture offers opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, according to a report released on November 5 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Reductions in emissions from agriculture could help to close the greenhouse gas emissions gap. (Photo Credit: ucanr.edu)

The Emissions Gap Report 2013—which involved 44 scientific groups in 17 countries and was coordinated by UNEP—measures the difference between the pledges that countries have made to cut emissions and the targets required to keep global temperature change below 2 degrees Celsius (°C).

The report finds that if the global community does not embark immediately on wide-ranging actions to narrow the greenhouse emissions gap, the chance of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2°C this century will diminish quickly and lead to a host of challenges.

Based on the current trajectory, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to reach 8–12 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (GtCO2e)—roughly comparable to 80 percent of current emissions from the world’s power plants. This is above the level that would provide a likely chance of remaining on the least-cost pathway; to be on track to stay within the 2°C target, emissions should reach a maximum of 44 GtCO2e by 2020, the report says.

Reductions in emissions from agriculture, an often-overlooked source of emissions, could help to close the emissions gap, the authors say. They estimate that emission-reduction potentials for the sector range from 1.1 GtCO2e to 4.3 GtCO2e.

Worldwide, agriculture contributes between 14 and 30 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions because of its heavy requirements for land, water, and energy. The agriculture sector releases more emissions than every car, train, and plane in the global transportation sector.

Activities such as operating fuel-powered farm equipment, pumping water for irrigation, raising dense populations of livestock in indoor facilities, managing soils, and applying nitrogen-rich fertilizers all contribute to agriculture’s high greenhouse gas footprint.

UNEP attributes an estimated 38 percent of agricultural emissions to nitrous oxide from soils, 32 percent to methane from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock, 12 percent to biomass burning, 11 percent to rice production, and 7 percent to manure management. Direct agricultural emissions account for 60 percent of global nitrous oxide emissions and 50 percent of global methane emissions, according to the report. (more…)

Oct20

Feeding the Future: Ethiopia’s Livestock Growth Program

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By Kimberlee Davies

With one of the lowest GDPs and highest malnutrition rates in the world, Ethiopia desperately needs food security investment and innovation. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) recently awarded a contract to CNFA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, to implement the Agricultural Growth Program–Livestock Growth Project (AGP-LGP) in Ethiopia. The program, sponsored by USAID’s Feed the Future initiative, will encourage growth in the farming sector by increasing the competitiveness and value of Ethiopia’s livestock. CNFA expects the program to create roughly 2,600 new jobs and to improve the nutrition of 200,000 households.

CNFA has accepted a USAID contract to implement a livestock project in Ethiopia. (Photo Credit: ILRI)

In 2009, Feed the Future—a U.S. executive initiative resulting from the 2009 World Summit on Food Security—selected 20 countries, including Ethiopia, to work with on strengthening food security. Ethiopia was chosen for its high level of need and the Ethiopian government’s openness to partnership. Currently, Ethiopia’s annual per capita income is only US$170, and 30 percent of children under five are underweight. Livestock contribute to the livelihood of 60 to 70 percent of the population.

CNFA already has enacted a similar livestock program in Kenya. The Kenya Drylands Livestock Development Program (KDLDP) was one of the first programs implemented in Africa under Feed the Future, and has successfully increased livestock value and yields through improved production, marketing, and market access. Fattening animals and processing livestock products near production areas results in higher prices, thereby increasing local incomes and promoting employment among underemployed groups such as women, youth, and the elderly. AGP-LGP will apply CNFA’s past success to Ethiopia.

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Aug27

Investing in the Future of Livestock: An Interview with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson

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Worldwatch Institute’s Supriya Kumar spoke with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, projects coordinator for the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP).  LPP supports people in marginal areas to encourage socially sustainable livestock production.  

“We want to focus on animal culture, not animal industry,” said Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, while on a visit to Washington, D.C. last year.

“Everyone is worried about a growing human population, but what no one is paying attention to is the fact that livestock populations have grown twice as fast as human population has in the last 50 years. Even more concerning is the fact that the rate of culling is 7 times higher than it was 50 years ago,” said Koehler-Rollefson.  These are just a few signs of how unsustainable current methods of livestock production are.

The League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development supports people in marginal areas to encourage sustainable livestock production. (Photo Credit: The Ark of Livestock Biodiversity)

LPP was started in 1992 by a small group of veterinary and other concerned professionals, including Koehler-Rollefson, to support pastoral societies and other small-scale livestock keepers through research, technical support, advisory services, and advocacy. “Many government policies are now focused on industrial and factory farms. Our mission is to address any gaps between the needs of the small-scale livestock keepers. We also work with family and smallholder farms as well.”

Koehler-Rollefson visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for livestock keepers in national and international agricultural policy decisions at the High-level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020. Other groups at the meeting represented big names and organizations in the livestock sector, including the International Livestock Research Institute, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. But no one, other than Koehler-Rollefson, was present to represent smaller-scale livestock producers and pastoralists.

LPP uses three main approaches in their advocacy efforts. One approach is the Biological Community Protocol (BCP), which aims to empower livestock keepers as stewards of biological diversity under the protection of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Under this Convention, countries are committed to support and protect local and indigenous communities who are helping to improve biodiversity.

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May08

Emissions from Agriculture and Livestock Continue to Grow

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By Laura Reynolds

In 2010, global greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector totaled 4.7 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO₂) equivalent, up 13 percent over 1990. Agriculture is the third largest contributor to global emissions by sector, following the burning of fossil fuels for power and heat, and transportation. In 2010, emissions from electricity and heat production reached 12.5 billion tons, and emissions from transport totaled 6.7 billion tons.

Agricultural emissions have increased over the past two decades. (Photo credit: www.mnn.com)

Despite their continuing rise, emissions from agriculture are growing at a much slower rate than the sector as a whole, demonstrating the increasing carbon efficiency of agriculture. From 1990 to 2010, the volume of agricultural production overall increased nearly 23 percent, according to data compiled by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for its program, FAOSTAT. FAO released a new GHG Emissions database for agriculture, forestry and other land use changes in Dec 2012, which can be found here.

According to FAO, methane accounts for just under half of total agricultural emissions, nitrous oxide for 36 percent, and carbon dioxide for some 14 percent. The largest source of methane emissions is enteric fermentation, or the digestion of organic materials by livestock, predominantly beef cattle. This is also the largest source of agricultural emissions overall, contributing 37 percent of the total.

Livestock contribute to global emissions in other ways as well. Manure deposited and left on pastures is a major source of nitrous oxide emissions because of its high nitrogen content. When more nitrogen is added to soil than is needed, bacteria convert the extra nitrogen into nitrous oxide and release it into the atmosphere. Emissions from manure on pasture in Asia, Africa, and South America together account for as much as 81 percent of global emissions from this source. These emissions from the three regions increased 42 percent on average between 1990 and 2010, reflecting an increase in range-based livestock populations; elsewhere, these emissions either decreased or stagnated.

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Apr11

Global Food Prices Continue to Rise

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By Sophie Wenzlau

Continuing a decade-long increase, global food prices rose 2.7 percent in 2012, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s and 1970s but still well below the price spike of 1974. Between 2000 and 2012, the World Bank global food price index increased 104.5 percent, at an average annual rate of 6.5 percent.

Global food prices rose 2.7 percent in 2012 (Photo Credit: Thinkstock)

The price increases reverse a previous trend when real prices of food commodities declined at an average annual rate of 0.6 percent from 1960 to 1999, approaching historic lows. The sustained price decline can be attributed to farmers’ success in keeping crop yields ahead of rising worldwide food demand. Although the global population grew by 3.8 billion or 122.9 percent between 1961 and 2010, net per capita food production increased by 49 percent over this period. Advances in crop breeding and an expansion of agricultural land drove this rise in production, as farmers cultivated an additional 434 million hectares between 1961 and 2010.

Food price volatility has increased dramatically since 2006. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the standard deviation—or measurement of variation from the average—for food prices between 1990 and 1999 was 7.7 index points, but it increased to 22.4 index points in the 2000–12 period.

Although food price volatility has increased in the last decade, it is not a new phenomenon. According to World Bank data, the standard deviation for food prices in 1960–99 was 11.9 index points higher than in 2000–12. Some price volatility is inherent in agricultural commodities markets, as they are strongly influenced by weather shocks. But the recent upward trend in food prices and volatility can be traced to additional factors including climate change, policies promoting the use of biofuels, rising energy and fertilizer prices, poor harvests, national export restrictions, rising global food demand, and low food stocks.

Perhaps most significant has been an increase in biofuels production in the last decade. Between 2000 and 2011, global biofuels production increased more than 500 percent, due in part to higher oil prices and the adoption of biofuel mandates in the United States and European Union (EU). According to a 2012 study by the University of Bonn’s Center for Development Research, if biofuel production continues to expand according to current plans, the price of feedstock crops (particularly maize, oilseed crops, and sugar cane) will increase more than 11 percent by 2020.

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Dec04

Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production

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By Laura Reynolds

This summer, record temperatures and limited rainfall parched vast areas of U.S. cropland, and with Earth’s surface air temperature projected to rise 0.69 degrees Celsius by 2030, global food production will be even more unpredictable. Although agriculture is a major driver of human-caused climate change, contributing an estimated 25 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, when done sustainably it can be an important key to mitigating climate change.

Agroforestry is one practice that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while adapting to the effects of climate change. (Photo credit: Christensen Fund)

Because of its reliance on healthy soil, adequate water, and a delicate balance of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, farming is the human endeavor most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. But agriculture’s strong interrelationships with both climatic and environmental variables also make it a significant player in reducing climate-altering emissions as well as helping the world adapt to the realities of a warming planet.

The good news is that agriculture can hold an important key to mitigating climate change. Practices such as using animal manure rather than artificial fertilizer, planting trees on farms to reduce soil erosion and sequester carbon, and growing food in cities all hold huge potential for reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that the global agricultural sector could potentially reduce and remove 80 to 88 percent of the carbon dioxide that it currently emits. By adopting more-sustainable approaches, small-scale agriculture in developing countries has the potential to contribute 70 percent of agriculture’s global mitigation of climate change. And many of these innovations have the potential to be replicated, adapted, and scaled up for application on larger farms, helping to improve water availability, increase diversity, and improve soil quality, as well as mitigate climate change. (more…)

Nov29

UN Conference Connects Food, Agriculture, and Climate Change

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By Carol Dreibelbis

This week and next, international decision makers are meeting at COP18/CMP 8, a UN conference on climate change in Doha, Qatar. Several events taking place today consider the relationship between agriculture and climate change, including a session entitled, “Climate Change & Ensuring Sustainable, Humane, Equitable Food Systems: Views from the North & South.”

Check out today’s issue of Outreach, a magazine published in conjunction with the conference. It features further discussion on food, agriculture, and climate change, including articles such as “China, Food Security, Climate Change, and the Future” and “Livestock and Climate Change: Intensification is Not the Answer.”

What topics in food and agriculture do you hope are addressed at the conference? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern for the Nourishing the Planet project.

Nov21

A Tale of Two Farms: Industrial vs. Sustainable Meat Production in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic

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By Carol Dreibelbis

Most food in the United States comes from industrialized, intensive farms. Meat and dairy are no exception: nationwide, 40 percent of all U.S. food animals are raised in the largest 2 percent of livestock facilities. And these large-scale facilities, commonly referred to as factory farms, continue to grow. Between 1997 and 2007, the U.S. factory farming industry added 4,600 hogs, 650 dairy cows, 139,200 broiler chickens, and 1,100 beef cattle each day. On a global scale, industrial animal production now accounts for 72 percent of all poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production.

Pastured broiler chickens feed on grass and grain at Virginia-based Polyface Farm. (Photo credit: Polyface, Inc.)

Although factory farms provide large quantities of relatively inexpensive meat, the associated environmental, social, and human health costs are high. Factory farms rely on massive inputs of water, fossil fuel energy, grain-based feed, and other limited resources. Feed production alone accounts for an estimated 75 percent of the energy use associated with factory farming; growing animal feed also requires the input of water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and it occupies arable land that could be used directly to grow food. An estimated 23 percent of all water used in agriculture goes to livestock production.

Industrialized meat production also creates huge amounts of waste, contaminating nearby air and water and threatening the health of humans and wildlife. Some large factory farms produce more waste than large U.S. cities. The livestock industry is also responsible for approximately 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than the entire global transportation sector. By contributing to climate change, factory farms affect people both locally and around the world.

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Nov16

U.S. Government Raises Estimates for Corn and Soybean Harvest, But Lasting Effects of Drought Still Loom

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By Andrew Alesbury

The U.S. government predicts that the nation’s 2012 corn and soybean harvests will not be as low as previously predicted, although the effects of this year’s drought in the country’s top agricultural region are not yet over.

The USDA has raised its production
forecasts for corn and soybeans, but
the effects of the drought are not yet over (Photo Credit: Collective Vision).

In a recent report on national crop production, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecasts a slight rise from October’s projections, with total corn production expected to hit 10.7 billion bushels and soybean production projected to reach 2.97 billion bushels. Even with the new projections, the drought is expected to cause deficits in 2012 U.S. corn and soybean production of 13 percent and 4 percent, respectively, over 2011.

This summer’s drought was centered in the Midwest, the heart of U.S. corn and soybean production. Because the United States is the world’s biggest exporter of the two crops, the plant-withering conditions caused soybean and corn prices to reach record highs worldwide, fueling fears over continued price increases. But rainfall late in the growing season has lessened the drought’s impact, allowing farmers to make up for some of the crop shortfall and bring prices down.

Analysts such as Mark Schultz, chief analyst at Northstar Commodity Investment Co., speculate that decreased demand for grains has also helped to soften the blow of global shortages. “Surging costs may have damped demand by makers of food, biofuel and livestock feed,” Schultz said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Given all the rhetoric about the rest of the world running out of food, it appears that supplies are adequate and that high prices may have slowed demand.”

Yet not all is back to normal. Irrespective of recent rainfall or of demand compensating for decreased supply, the drought has still accounted for large crop losses and may have lasting effects. Corn yields for 2012 are expected to average 122.3 bushels per acre, down 24.9 bushels per acre from 2011. If these predictions prove accurate, they would represent the nation’s lowest corn output since 2006 and lowest average yield since 1995.

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