23Apr

Sustainability of Livestock Production Systems

Livestock is considered to be essential assets in Africa due to their nutritional and economic value. There is an urgent need for further development of livestock production system in Africa to become more sustainable while meeting the growing demands for animal products. Livestock farming in Africa occurs mainly through inefficient, unproductive smallholder environments isolated from markets and abattoirs by limited infrastructure. As a result, many animals fail to produce their true economic and nutritional value. The population in Africa is growing rapidly than the number of cattle and small ruminants leading to a significant reduction in the per capita consumption of animal products such as meat and milk.  


The population of Africa is projected to more than double by the mid-21st century to 2.5 billion people. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is expected to continue rising. The demand for meat and other animal products will escalate with the rapidly rising population. It is critical to embrace sustainable livestock production system to meet the huge and ever-growing demand. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the consumption will increase by 200% between 2015 and 2050. The consumption of poultry and pork will increase by 211% and 200% respectively within the same period. Cellular agriculture (cell-ag) is the only viable solution that can satisfy the bulging appetite for meats.


Africa practices conventional livestock agriculture with the main players being smallholder farmers. Two-thirds of rural households in Sub-Saharan Africa keep livestock. Pastoralist communities have been playing a critical role in livestock farming in Africa. 99% of cattle in Nigeria are managed traditionally. Over 95% of cattle and poultry in Tanzania are kept by households. Unlike many Africa countries, the commercial industry in South Africa plays a critical role in livestock product. It accounts for 60% of the market. Smallholders supply over 70% of animal-source foods consumed in Africa. Most African governments have failed to provide support for livestock smallholders despite endorsing the Maputo Declaration in 2003. African heads of states agreed to commit at least 10% of their national budget resources to agriculture and rural development. Unfortunately, less 10 nations have managed to comply with the agreement. This development provides a great opportunity for the private sector to step since smallholders are not capable of satisfying the growing demand for animal products in the continent.


In Africa, agriculture has a massive social and economic footprint. Over 60% of Sub-Saharan Africa population comprise of smallholder farmers. Approximately 23% of Sub-Saharan Africa GDP is attributed to agriculture (Harris & Consulting, 2014). Despite the vital role of agriculture in Africa, its full potential remains untapped. Intensifying agricultural productivity can make the continent two or three times more productive. Significant investment is required to realize the full potential of agriculture in Africa. The key investment includes fertilizer, hybrid seed, irrigation, storage, infrastructure and markets.


Livestock is a key tenet in the livelihoods of rural Africa. It has strategic importance in the continent’s food and nutritional security and economy through intra-African and global trade. Approximately 30 to 80% of Africa’s agricultural GDP is attributed to the livestock sector. The sector has the potential of delivering both agricultural-led growth and the socio-economic transformation. Africa policymakers are aware of the need to enhance livestock production to meet the increasing demand for animal-source food by the expanding population of urbanized consumers.


Many African countries are likely to progressively face larger livestock import bills unless a quantum and continuous increase in the production of livestock is attained. The growth of the local livestock industry will adversely be affected by the failure to transform the sector. Meeting the increased demand for animal products through importation will deny employment opportunities to the youth dominating the growing African population. The move will lead to reduced income for livestock products as well as other actors along the value chain resulting in losses in revenues, taxes and import income.


In line with the challenges and opportunities in animal farming, the African Union Commission (AUC) established Livestock Development Strategy for Africa (LiDeSA) in 2014 to transform the livestock sector by energising its under-utilized potential. LiDeSA is a two-decade (2015-2035) strategy that focuses on addressing development needs and challenges in Africa. The strategy concurs with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), Member States’ MS levels and the frameworks and agenda at the Continental Regional Economic Community (CREC). The focus of LiDeSA is to encourage increased investments from the public and private sources. Transforming the livestock is critical in enhancing its contribution to socio-economic development and equitable growth in Africa. Effective implementation of LiDeSA is capable of transforming the livestock sector in Africa to actualize its potential as a major contributor to equitable growth, socio-economic development and poverty reduction in the continent.


Since the conventional agriculture dominated by the smallholder cannot handle the huge appetite for meat in Africa, and industry intensive system is likely to have adverse effect on the environment, human health, and animal welfare in meeting the demand, players in the private sector should take up the challenge by investing in cellular agriculture once it is rolled out in the market. Cell-ag offers a new way of producing animal products that lessen the depended on industrial animal farming. The process produces animal products from cells rather than animals. It is a completely new food system that has potential benefits for the environment and health. Cell cultured-meat require less water and generate far less greenhouse gas. Cellular agriculture is a more controlled and clean system for the production of animal product and may play a key role in reducing the dependence on antibiotics in farming thereby leading to better health outcomes. Currently, cellular agriculture is exploratory research being conducted on a small scale in laboratories. There is a great possibility of the research leading to the production of meat in factories. A lot still needs to be done for the new system to be adopted and accepted in mass production to meet the huge demand for animal products.


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