The livestock sector creates income for an estimated one billion people. For them, livestock constitute a productive asset and often the only form of income.
Photo: N. Palmer for FAO/PPLPI


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Livestock are critical to building sustainability in food and agriculture. Current and future livestock sector development needs to produce more, from less, and in ways that benefit all. Solving the sector’s challenges requires stakeholders to find common ground and to join forces towards continuous practice change. The Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock is one example of these new ways of working.

Livestock and livestock products are criticised for contributing to unhealthy diets, climate change and competition over grains. Mixed with concerns about animal welfare and a recent string of food safety scandals, it sometimes appears that the world would be better off without livestock.

The opposite is true. We need livestock, animals that we use for food and other products and as a component of mixed farming world-wide. By turning our attention away from livestock, we risk missing out on large development opportunities. The vast diversity in livestock systems world-wide and the different demands and expectations placed on the sector have contributed to the difficulties for public policy in comprehensively addressing the sector. This diversity has also added to a poor understanding of how the sector, given an increasing world population, growing scarcity of natural resources and accelerating climate change, can best contribute to the world’s need for sustainable food and agriculture.

Food security and livelihoods

Traditionally, livestock has served to turn resources that humans can’t use directly, such as grazing and crop residues, but also agro-industrial by-products and diverse forms of waste, into valuable products and services.

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