FAO-ICARDA delegates urge FAO to form a Near East and North Africa (NENA) Animal Feed Network
National experts in the field of animal feed resources from NENA countries strongly suggested to form a NENA Animal Feed Network (NEAN-AFN) at the Regional Workshop on Animal Feed Resources and their Management held in Muscat, Oman from 24 to 26 March 2014. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), and, with the active support of the Government of Oman organised this workshop.
Feed is the foundation of the livestock production, with feed costs generally accounting for up to 70% of the cost of production. Feed prices have been increasingly volatile due to negative impacts of natural disasters and climate change, as well as from increasing competition in the use of grains for feed, food and bio-fuel. Increasing demand of livestock products impose a huge demand on feed resources. Bio-physical factors such as scarcity of land, soil and water, food-fuel-feed competition, ongoing global warming, and increasing competition for arable land and non-renewable resources such as fossil sources and minerals are challenging the sustainability of feed production systems. Efficient use of available feed resources is a key to efficient animal production and food security. It is impossible to effectively manage a resource if its availability is not known.
In order to better monitor and guide national and regional livestock sector development, it is essential to develop systematic approaches to accurately assess livestock feed supplies and to obtain better insight into how these feed resources are being utilized. Unfortunately, despite their strategic role in livestock sector development planning, feed assessments and balances are not usually available and where available, they tend to be rather inaccurate. Sub-optimal input data for country-level food/feed input-output analyses and the inability to accurately assess environmental impacts of livestock production are challenges that all initiatives and stakeholders involved in sustainable livestock development are confronted with.
Against this background, delegates of the FAO-ICARDA workshop made a plea to form a bilingual (English and Arabic) NENA-AFN. The objectives of the network would be to:
- produce regularly updated inventories of feedstuffs with chemical compositions and nutritional values;
- characterize and map feeding systems;
- monitor prices and trade of feed and feed ingredients;
- assess and forecast feed demand and supply;
- develop guidelines on feed resource management and feeding strategies;
- develop a database on ‘who-is-who’ in the region in the area of feed and feeding including public and private sector organizations, suppliers, institutions and stakeholders, civil societies and non-governmental organizations;
- document success stories; and
- serve as a platform for exchange of information with experts.
In addition, the participants also requested FAO to initiate a Regional Technical Cooperation Project on efficient utilization of locally available feed resources embracing: national feed assessments, characterization of feeding systems, quality control systems for feed analysis, and development of feeding strategies based on locally available feed resources with the aim to decrease the use of imported grain-based concentrate feeds in the region.
During the workshop, the experts also identified knowledge gaps in feed assessments and characterization of feeding systems for their countries. Discussions were held on methodologies and approaches to conduct feed assessments and characterize feeding systems. The country representatives agreed to complete the feed assessment and characterization of feeding systems for their respective countries by June 2014.
The future thrust areas identified by the experts are:
- up-scaling and expanding knowledge and use of salt- and drought-tolerant plant species as animal feed;
- crop-livestock integrated systems with a focus on using water-efficient plants and locally adapted animals;
- restoration of rangelands/grasslands;
- capacity development in feed assessment in rangelands based on remote sensing and geographic information system (RS/GIS);
- promotion in the use of locally-adapted indigenous plant species in rangeland rehabilitation;
- decrease in the use of cereal seeds in livestock diets by including forages and agro-industrial by-products; and
- development of RS/GIA-based Early Warning Systems (EWS) for feed and water availability, to support pastoralists.
According to Harinder Makkar and Markos Tibbo, the main organisers of the workshop “the 3Fs: Feed Inventories, Feeding Systems, and Feed Quality should be considered as integral components of an overall strategy or options that integrate technical (genetics, health and nutrition), policy and institutional interventions for using resources more efficiently to produce more food and feed. Both policy makers and animal feed and crop scientists have a role to play in making this possible”.