FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Livestock sector in Latin America and the Caribbean has great potential to mitigate its greenhouse gas emissions

FAO and the countries of the region hold a major event in Colombia to promote low-emission livestock.

August 27, 2018, Santiago de Chile - Latin America and the Caribbean must move towards more sustainable forms of livestock, said the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO).

A priority objective is to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases associated with livestock. Despite significant progress in certain indicators, these emissions, which have a direct impact on climate change, remain very high.

Livestock is an activity with important positive social and economic effects. The transformation of livestock should aim to continue increasing production and productivity and, at the same time, reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. This is possible, said FAO, although only to the extent that governments and the private sector promote a deep technological innovation and install the institutions and rules that make it possible.

To identify ways to make this strategy a reality, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Colombia, the Colombian Agriculture Research Corporation AGROSAVIA, and the FAO have called the countries to a great regional event between August 28 and 29, in Monteria, Colombia

"We must profoundly change livestock in Latin America and the Caribbean. Technological innovation is the key to making livestock more productive with much less impact on climate change. In addition, we are very concerned that the livestock of small producers and farmers, family farming, is included in this indispensable transformation, "explained the Regional Representative of FAO, Julio Berdegué.

Berdegué recalled that livestock is of vital importance for food security in Latin America and the Caribbean, since it contributes 15% of calories and 37% of proteins for total food consumption.

Huge environmental challenges

According to the FAO, livestock contributes 46% of the regional agricultural GDP. On the other hand, Latin America and the Caribbean contribute more than a quarter of all the world production of beef and poultry.

In the region, the sector has grown at an annual rate of 3.7%, a figure much higher than the average global growth rate (2.1%). However, this growth demands significant environmental challenges. Livestock is one of the main emitters of gases that aggravate climate change and, in this negative aspect, Latin America and the Caribbean also stands out on a global scale.

Along with this, about 70% of the lands dedicated to grazing are degraded, to which we must add deforestation to expand the livestock frontier, the conversion of marginal lands for the production of feed, and the contamination of water and soil .

"A livestock that continues on a path of conflict with the environment and with efforts to mitigate climate change has no future in the contemporary world. The change is unavoidable and the countries that are ahead will be rewarded in the markets, "said Berdegué.

The region seeks its own answers

The region is committed to promoting low-emission livestock production in the framework of international agreements, including the Paris Agreement (2015), an effort that is supported by the Livestock Development Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, whose secretariat is exercised by FAO.

During the event in Monteria, Colombia, countries and FAO will discuss ways to facilitate innovation and adopt best practices and technologies to reduce the impact of livestock production, as well as access to rural services as part of Sustainable Livestock Development.

There are several efforts and experiences that some countries have been implementing to increase sustainable production and low carbon emissions.

In Argentina, for example, certification systems for organic beef have been created. In Bolivia, the program of sustainable development of bovine livestock is carried out while Brazil has created a "carbon neutral meat" seal, and implemented an energy efficiency program for the resources of the beef supply chain.

In Chile, the initiative for the conservation and sustainable use of the Patagonian steppe for sustainable livestock is developed, while Colombia and Ecuador have promoted a Sustainable livestock program. For its part, Paraguay has created an agreement for the creation of a sustainable livestock policy and Uruguay has opted for climate-smart livestock production and the restoration of land in its pastures.

It will be key to work with small producers

"Nearly two thirds of those engaged in agriculture in the region derive part of their income from the livestock sector, which is a fundamental element for the development of rural areas of the region," said Julio Berdegué.

According to the FAO, to achieve a low-emission cattle ranch, it will be vital to work with small producers: in Brazil -the largest meat producer in the region- the family livestock production generates 58% of the milk, 50% of the poultry, 59% of pork and 30% of the beef that is consumed in the country.

In Argentina, small producers provide 33% of dairy animals, 19% of cattle, 25% of goats, 62% of sheep and 49% of pigs, while in Uruguay 77% of cattle producers and sheep are family producers. The same is true in Colombia, where it is estimated that small farmers produce 40% of the milk consumed in the country. In Nicaragua, cattle provide 30-35% of the income of subsistence family farms.

Share this page