Livestock play a significant role in addressing many of the challenges that low- and middle-income countries face. Livestock production generates income, jobs, economic growth, and exports. Livestock in some regions are culturally significant, central to local diets, and critical to risk management and resilience.

Animal-sourced foods are a key source of protein and micronutrients across the globe. They are also sources of resilience through risk management and asset building in harsher, water-scarce environments.

Livestock often contribute to local agroecological health by consuming co-products and wastes; providing organic manure to maintain soil structure and fertility; and contributing to on-farm biodiversity. At the same time, livestock production can harm the environment, for example, through incentivizing land use change, emitting greenhouse gases (GHG), and generating pollution.

Points of Consideration:

Sustainable livestock sector investment will undertake stakeholder engagement and preparatory research to consider the development objectives of the proposed project and the role of livestock in achieving those objectives.

As part of the project conceptualization process, stakeholder engagement and preparatory research can be undertaken to explore the synergies and trade-offs of investing in different food sources. Approaching project conceptualization in this manner presents a significant opportunity for livestock investment to go beyond the traditional objective of fulfilling current and projected demand for livestock products.

By considering the full range of locally suitable food sources, investment can respond to demand strategically. This incentivizes growth in specific livestock species where it can be sustainable and consumption of other foods where it is less.


Approaches and Tools:

A large body of research suggests that reducing the environmental impact per unit of food produced will be a critical strategy for achieving a sustainable food system. This “per unit” approach to quantifying environmental impact can form the basis of an ex-ante analysis of potential environmental impacts and of indicators used in the project monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework. Variables to measure would include resource use efficiency (the amount of land, pesticide, water, or other resource inputs required to produce each unit of human-edible output) and greenhouse gas emission intensity (emissions per unit of human-edible output produced).

A growing body of research, however, also points out the need to improve the sustainability of the food system from the consumer perspective, for example, by combining dietary changes with practice improvement. Depending on the project context, it may thus be relevant to consider absolute magnitudes of environmental impact as related to consumption levels, such as total land required for the project or total volume of emissions estimated to result from the project.

Guiding questions for stakeholder engagement may include:

What is the role of livestock in local food preferences and culture?

What is the role of livestock in the country/province’s development agenda, for instance, for rural livelihoods, job creation, trade, and agricultural sector growth?

What are the nutritional needs of the project area? Does the relevant population meet national dietary recommendations for the consumption of animal-sourced foods?

What is the role of livestock in the country’s capacity to build resilience to climate change?

Do the local natural resource base and climate favor livestock production at present and according to future projections? If so, which species? If not, which other food sources would be suitable?

What are the potential environmental impacts of suitable animal-sourced and plant-based foods?


Variables to Consider:

As the team assesses the comparative advantage of livestock to development goals of the project, it may consider the following elements:

Kilogram (kg) of additional animal products protein and/or milligram (mg) of micronutrients made available to project beneficiaries, and how they contribute to current diets, reduce potential deficits, and/or add to overconsumption.

Livestock-related jobs and income generated among the poor in the project scenario, compared to alternative investment options.

Incremental use of natural resources (water, land, nitrogen, phosphorus) in the project scenario and the related increase on resources, compared to other investment options.

Incremental release of harmful emissions (GHG, pesticides) in the project scenario and the related increase on resources compared to other investment options.



Principle 1 offers a framework for broadly considering the role of livestock in the context of a potential development investment. It thus applies to the early stages of project conceptualization before other principles are triggered.

Principles 2 through 6 focus on the key production practices and technologies that contribute to improving the environmental performance of livestock supply chains.

Principle 1 applies to all Sustainable Development Goals and how livestock production systems may contribute to those.