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Balancing Livestock, the environment and human needs

10 March to 24 May 1997


To give all stakeholders the opportunity to have their views on livestock, environment, and human welfare interactions included in a position paper to be developed at a global meeting in the Netherlands in June, 1997.

Based on all stakeholders perspectives, to identify policy, research, and development strategies to alleviate the negative and enhance the positive impacts of livestock on natural resources in different types of livestock production systems in different countries and ecoregions.

To identify areas of common interests which can lead to future research and development institutional collaboration, partnerships, networks, etc.

Conference Agenda

Weeks 1 - 3; March 10 - 30 (three weeks)

Welcome messages, presentation of the agenda, distribution of a summary paper describing different types of livestock systems, in various ecoregions and types of environmental degradation caused by these systems, and begin exchange of information among conferees.

Weeks 4 - 9; March 31 - May 11 (Six Weeks)

Four parallel discussions on how grazing systems, mixed (crop/livestock) systems, industrial (land detached) systems impact on the environment, and cross system impacts (e.g. green house gases, etc.). In each group, conferees will discuss issues such as: What are the driving forces that lead livestock to have a negative impact?, How (and at what rate?) has the environment changed as a result?, How have stakeholders (farmers, communities, policy decision-makers, etc.) responded?, What are possible strategies to alleviate the negative and enhance the positive impacts of livestock on natural resources?, Of these strategies, which will lead to greater improvement in the welfare of society as a whole?, Of these strategies, which are more likely to lead to more equitable capture of benefits (rural income, gender and inter-generational issues)?

Weeks 10 - 12; May 12 - 30 (three weeks)

Comparison and discussion of the various strategies proposed by the four groups. Recommendations of possible policy, research, and development options, follow-up activities, etc.General summary of the conclusions from the electronic conference.

Conclusions and recomendations


  • Livestock get a lot of unsubstantiated blame for environmental degradation.
  • Although there are environmental problems associated with livestock, concomitant examples of successful strategies to enhance positive and limit the adverse effects of livestock on the environment are also found.
  • There is a paucity of information on livestock agriculture and the environment.
  • There is a lack of systems approach in research.
  • There is a lack of true interdisciplinarity in research.
  • There is not enough broad-scale focus in research.
  • Research on livestock-environment interactions is not proactive.
  • Current educational models results in a way of thinking and acting closely related to the dominant productivist model of agricultural and rural development, which is currently challenged by eco-development and livelihood-sustainability considerations.
  • There is a rift between scientists and policy-makers thus policies are often designed by economists and environmentalists without a holistic analysis of the problems and without any technical argumentation.
  • On human needs, we need to clarify whose needs and what needs are we referring to.
  • Several participants questioned the positive views about industrial systems and the environment put forward by the authors of the discussion document.
  • Several participants questioned the negative views about the potential of grazing systems to satisfy the growing food demand, put forward by the authors of the discussion document.
  • There is a rift between farmers and scientists as their sources of knowledge and their practical experience are different.
  • Two opposite trends are becoming universal phenomenon. On the one hand, there is a move towards individualization, to create ownership and direct responsibilities. On the other hand, there is the process towards globalization, not only of trade and commerce but also of problems such resource degradation. However, the fabric of globalization, the rules of the game at the supra national level and the acceptance of where the benefits go and who pays have not yet been defined.
  • The livestock sector is reluctant to change from its focus on how to produce more, even though livestock specialists trained to increase productivity are trying to look at livestock production in a broader context but tending to exclude outsiders (who are critical of production methods) from the discussions.
  • Several participants criticized the introduction of exotic breeds to African production systems.


  • Environmental standards to avoid pollution should be internationally agreed.
  • Refocusing research through the use of a true interdisciplinary systems approach.
  • Farmers organizations and R&D institutions should interact regularly with policy-making bodies.
  • Participation of grassroots organizations in policy-making.
  • Empowerment should be given to grassroots organizations.
  • Policies should not only protect the environment but encourage more lucrative ways of managing livestock as any attempt to minimize livestock impact on the environment are bound to be futile if farmers do not have better economic alternatives.
  • To bridge the gap between the technical people, producers and policy makers in order to provide a holistic analysis of the problems and allow the argumentation by all interest groups.
  • Definition and measurement of indicators of sustainable livestock production.
  • Livestock projects should be tied with the condition that they deal with concomitant environmental effects and policy analysis and design.
  • Active education of all stakeholders and social actors using novel approaches such as peer teaching and university-farmer programs.
  • To develop academic training programs that incorporate issues such as sustainability, natural resource protection, gender in the rural context, and knowledge generated by local research.
  • The funding of regional centers for rural and agricultural development.
  • The establishment of a Virtual LxE Center.
  • Enhancement of mechanisms of face-to-face discussions between farmers, researchers, policy-makers, environmentalists and all other stakeholders, in a complementary way to the Virtual Center.
  • Further development of the industrial system should be left to the private sector.
  • To set up locally applicable Environmental Quality Objectives.