Livestock play an important role in livelihoods and nutrition throughout the world, particularly in addressing many challenges that low- and middle-income populations face. Ensuring sustainability of livestock systems will be critical in safeguarding this role. Livestock production generates income, jobs, economic growth, and exports. Livestock in some regions are also culturally significant, central to local diets and social events. Animal-source foods are key sources of protein and micronutrients across the globe, playing a vital role for food and nutrition security. They are also sources of resilience through risk management and asset building in harsher, water-scare environments.
At the same time, infectious and other diseases in livestock production may pose serious risks to livestock welfare and productivity as well as public health, and often disproportionally affect the most vulnerable communities. In addition to infectious and production diseases, the widespread overuse and misuse of antibiotics, hormones, and growth factors is contributing to the emergence of antibiotic resistance and posing risks to food and environmental safety. Livestock investment project objectives should aim to promote livestock production where it is needed, while mitigating risks concerning human and livestock health. Unmanaged risks can have significant consequences on animal health, production and welfare with consequences on livelihoods, food and nutrition security, public health, biodiversity, and ecosystem services. These could greatly undermine projects and the long-term objectives of improving livelihoods, managing risk, and ensuring resilience.
When making decisions about investments in livestock production, project managers should consider the long-term feasibility of sustainability and the ability to manage risks to animal and human health, in addition to environmental impacts. Such considerations should be a key part of short-term and long-term project objectives and essential to sustainable livestock investments.
Points of Consideration
Sustainable livestock sector investment will undertake stakeholder engagement and preparatory research as early as possible in the project conceptualization process. This will consider the development objectives of the proposed project and the role of livestock in achieving those objectives. This will include exploring synergies and trade-offs of investing in different food sources and the risks associated with them and taking advantage of opportunities that lead to sustainable outcomes. Doing so offers a significant opportunity for livestock investment to go beyond the traditional objective of fulfilling demand for livestock products, but also looks to achieve overall food security and livelihood objectives.
By considering the full range of locally-suitable food sources and the capacity to mitigate risk associated with those sources, investments can respond more strategically. This incentivizes growth in specific livestock species where it can be sustainable while achieving development objectives through the production and consumption of other foods where it cannot.
Approaches and Tools:
Managing risks to animal health is critical in achieving sustainable food systems locally, regionally and globally, and is crucial along lengthening and increasingly complex supply chains. Managing and monitoring risk, as well as developing locally-relevant livestock supply chains, depends inherently on the capacity of local institutions to do so. Therefore, in the project conceptualization stage, a critical tool and approach needs to include an analysis of animal health institutions and their risk management strategies, which could play a pivotal role in the sustainability of investments. This principle comes first, as it asks project managers and investors to first consider the ability of local institutions to meet sustainability objectives, and the impact decisions will have on the rest of the principles in the guide. Thus, when making livestock investment decisions in terms of animal health, institutions in the project area need to be assessed for their capacity to address:
✓ Prevention, traceability, monitoring and surveillance, early detection, and rapid response (Principle 2. Prevent and Control Animal Diseases; Principle 5. Reduce the Risk of Zoonosis)
✓ Animal welfare (Principle 3. Ensure Welfare of Animals)
✓ Compliance with food safety standards and best practices (Principle 4. Health Animals for Safer Food)
✓ Antimicrobial use (Principle 6. Prudent and responsible use of Antimicrobials)
✓ Proposed policy or institutional solutions, access to services (Principle 7. Foster an Enabling Environment)
Addressing each of these factors will have implications depending on the context, especially when implementing projects in FCV countries. Project managers should also look to the environment guidance to assess ability to address environmental principles.
Sustainability in terms of animal health often focuses on reducing risk where possible. Since reducing risk is the responsibility of every agent/actor along the value chain, from production of inputs, to production, to transportation and retail, and finally consumption, it is important to evaluate the ability and awareness of managing risk at each stage. For example, poor awareness of product handling at the farm level can lead to health risks, economic losses, and wasted precious natural resources that undermine the entire supply chain. As such, investors in food production, in particular animal-source foods, have key responsibilities in ensuring a proper risk analysis is conducted. This is a critical component in assessing the comparative advantage of investing in a particular sector.
At the project level, investment decisions can play a pivotal role in farm production outcomes and methods used. Considering a diverse array of factors will be critical to setting up sustainable livestock projects. These include:
• Proper location
• Suitable livestock species for the location
• Sustainable access to resources for nutrition (i.e. good quality feed, water)
• Maintaining genetic diversity
• Proper production methods (i.e. farm management, biosecurity practices)
The above examples are critical in setting up investments that have inherently minimum risk, are resilient, and can better promote long-term sustainability. The guidance, which these principles underpin, will expand on these examples and provide specific tools given a set of contexts, objectives, and interventions. However, in the early stages of considering a livestock project or a project with livestock components, this guide invites users to consider the following guiding questions, which aim to lead to a more sustainable food future.
Guiding questions for stakeholder engagement may include:
✓ What is the social and economic role of livestock in local food preferences and culture?
✓ What is the social and economic role of livestock in the country/province's development agenda? (i.e., rural livelihoods, job creation, trade, agricultural sector growth).
✓ What are the nutritional needs of the project area? Do relevant populations meet national dietary recommendations for the consumption of animal-source foods?
✓ Historically, what have been the major animal and human health risks in the project area?
✓ What is the institutional capacity (refer to Principle 7) to mitigate and address animal and human health risks?
✓ What current support exists to manage and monitor animal and human health risks at each stage of the supply chain (refer to Principles 2 and 4)?
✓ What early planning decisions are critical in building investments that are of inherently low risk to animal and human health? (i.e. which past investments have failed to mitigate these risks; what factors were at play?) Early decisions need to be taken on on issues like location, species, type of production system, sustainable access to recources, etc.”
Variables to Consider
As the team assesses the comparative advantage of livestock to the development goals of the project, it may be worth considering the following elements:
✓ The number of kilograms (kg) of additional animal products (e.g. protein) and/or milligrams (mg) of micronutrients made available to project beneficiaries, and how they contribute to current diets, reduce potential deficits, and/or add to overconsumption
✓ The number of livestock-related jobs and amount of income generated among the poor in the project scenario, compared to alternative investment options
✓ Risk management assessment of current institutions/systems and their capacity to deal with risks that might arise from the project scope
✓ Current access to quality veterinary services and products
✓ Gaps, if any, in meeting international animal health best practices and standards regarding and the capacity of the national quality infrastructure to meet standards and technical regulations
✓ the risk to animal and human health, particularly when expanding livestock capacity compared to other investments that still might meet development objectives except with lesser risks
✓ Environmental factors that affect resilience of ecosystems and their ability to maintain sustainable level of resource use, such as water, feed, land use, and managing pollution. (see Environmental guidance)
✓ Disruptive technologies in livestock development
Principle 1 offers a framework for broadly considering the role of livestock in the context of a potential development investment. It applies to the early stages of project conceptualization and early decisions in planning and requires an analysis of potential negative trade-offs or positive synergies with other health and environmental principles.
Principle 1 applies to broad development objectives, as formulated in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, and to how livestock production systems may contribute in unique ways to each of the SDGs (FAO, 2018).