The League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development convened the „Livestock Futures“ conference at the beginning of September in Bonn/Germany attended by some 70 participants from 16 countries who discussed the prospects of smallholder livestock production all over the world. Focus was on the potential of small-scale livestock-keeping in contributing to global food security, poverty alleviation programmes and the issue of how the political framework conditions can secure the survival of family enterprises.
The chief recommendations drawn up by the conference included that the environmental and societal damaged caused by industrialised livestock production systems must be internalised in price setting. This is an essential basis if fair competition conditions are ever to be created. Moreover, the social and ecological contributions of small farmers must be recognised. Many of these contributions first have to be measured and valorised, they include environmental and climate protection, major inputs to culture, tourism and local labour markets and the enhanced regional resistance capacity in times of famine disasters But even currently measurable contributions that small-scale producers make to food security are still being ignored. Especially in arid regions of the world where land cannot be put to other uses, the small-scale livestock sector is responsible for the largest share of animal production, making up 30 percent of world production.
Representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations agreed that on a global scale, industrial systems receive the majority of political support and market deregulation is at the expense of small-scale producers. It became clear from the subsequent discussion however, that other important issues still have to be clarified.
Powerless or lacking coherence?
Henning Steinfeld of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO is of the opinion that even the large organisations such as the FAO and the World Bank only have limited powers faced with the enormous trade flows. Steinfeld continued: We can't change the framework conditions. Only a section of the world's 600 million small-scale livestock producers possess the development potential to become competitive and focus should be laid on these people. The Environment Minister of Germany’s Rhineland Palatinate pointed out that there is a problem of coherence in policy-making, not in the goals, but in the actual decision making, she said. Powerful lobbies are at work. If European factory farming and export of the produce is supported by activities by the federal nutrition and economics ministries and by the European Union, we have to address the question of what potentials these markets have for development. Stefan Schmitz of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) is of the opinion that contradictions do not lie so much between German ministries but between the German and European positions, for example regarding the issue of subsidising biofuel production and how this impacts on development policy goals.
Food security versus meat consumption
Opinions tend also to differ sharply in regard to the recommendation that food security should first be generated locally by smallholder production. The demand for animal products will chiefly grow in the urban centres of developing countries, said FAO expert Steinfeld. Higher prices there will do nothing to alleviate poverty. Minister Höfken feared, on the other hand, that the FAO approach of wanting to raise the quantities of meat produced for these markets by 80 percent could lead to a nutritional disaster: If we want all regions of the world to reach the same level of meat consumption as that now experienced in industrialised countries, we will need two thirds more land than that currently farmed worldwide, underlined Ms Höfken.
Strengthen the alternative system
Currently, we do not have the basic knowledge required to even compare extensive and intensive systems, said Doris Lange, from the German agricultural research alliance DAFA (Deutsche Agrarforschungsallianz): We have to develop indicators that allow us to measure environmental impacts, animal welfare and social sustainability. Only when these are on hand will it be possible to arrive at comprehensive assessment systems.
Small-scale producers, as representatives of an alternative system to industrialised livestock production are not sufficiently visible, stressed Ilse Köhler-Rollefson of the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP) at the conference in Bonn. They must be more active in developing collective forms of organisation so that they can demand the right to political codetermination. Concrete first steps have been taken in this direction in the form of biocultural protocols in which livestock communities document their contributions.
A nutritional change in people's minds
The participants in the conference agreed that global trade flows counteracted other developments. Minister Höfken: We must improve the competitive climate for regionally produced goods in order to prevent dumping-priced products from destroying the competitiveness of small farmer produce. Large-scale campaigns are needed if this paradigm shift is to take place in politics and indeed at the WTO. Until then, the experts gathered together at the conference intend to involve in consumer education. There must be a nutritional turnaround, just as there has been an energy turnaround. Intensified educational campaigns must lock-in to this end and explain the advantages of smallholder livestock farming compared with the low efficiency of industrialised livestock production; the campaign should be levelled both at political decision makers and consumers.