There are already over 1 billion (about 15% of the human population) people hungry and living in poverty, and 75% of them as well as other less poor but vulnerable people live in rural areas and depend on farming for their livelihoods, with the majority relying on small scale crop-livestock systems. Food (primary and secondary), feed, fibre and fuel needs must be met from agriculture of a still expanding population that is expected to grow from the current 6.7 billion to some 9.2 billion by 2050 while available land for expansion of agriculture will become economically and environmentally unattractive. To meet the food needs of the population in 2050, production will have to expand by 70% compared to what it was in 2000. It is expected that 90% of the expansion will be through production intensification (i.e., increase in output per unit area), and 10% will be from area expansion mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. At the same time the environmental footprint of crop as well as of livestock production has to be reduced to improve sustainability. This poses both a development challenge as well as opportunities for livestock producers in crop-livestock systems to contribute to both overall food security and alleviation of their poverty as well as of non-agricultural rural population due to increasing employment opportunities in the input supply and output value chains.
Several of FAO’s development partners have had recent intra-institutional consultations with primary focus on identification of priorities for research and the tactics to optimize their research processes with respect to the development of integrated crop-livestock production systems. This consultation process (both electronic and face-to-face) will build on these and other major stock-takings by pulling together ideas with a view to:
(a) assess what do we know about integrated crop-livestock systems for development, including where they are working or not working, and what can be done to harness the potentials of successful integrated crop-livestock systems for development through sustainable production intensification;
(b) define next steps for key stakeholders, and especially for the Agriculture Department and Consumer Protection Department of the FAO and its national and international collaborators; and
(b) guide and empower FAO to better support member counties to harness the development potential of integrated crop and livestock systems as one important entry-point for sustainable agriculture intensification for poverty alleviation and environmental stewardship.
While many of the issues to be addressed are relevant for all types and scales of agriculture and food systems, the principle focus will be on the needs and opportunities for family-farmers (small and medium-scale land holders) and the associated community and watershed-level development. The use of the concept of integration for the consultation will not be restricted to only on-farm integration; it will also include “area-wide” integration of crops and livestock with input supply and output value chains (beyond the farm) toward outcome oriented multi-stakeholder innovation systems. In this context it is intended that the appraisal of an innovation and the associated innovation system also reflect on the issues related to linking the public with private sectors (local, regional, and global) in order to strengthen the role of input supply and output value chain markets and the service providers while taking into consideration environmental and human health issues.