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La FAO en Amérique latine et aux Caraïbes

Livestock production systems are considered to be the most appropriate social, economic and cultural strategy for maintaining the welfare of communities because this is the only activity that can simultaneously provide security for daily subsistence, preserve ecosystems, promote wildlife conservation and satisfy cultural traditions and values.

Livestock production in Latin America and the Caribbean

Livestock is of key importance for Latin America and the Caribbean and is a basic source of food for the food security of local populations.

More than 1 billion people worldwide depend on the livestock sector and 70% of the 880 million rural poor who live on under USD 1.00 per day at least partly depend on livestock for their livelihoods.

Livestock production systems are considered to be the most appropriate social, economic and cultural strategy for maintaining the welfare of communities because this is the only activity that can simultaneously provide security for daily subsistence, preserve ecosystems, promote wildlife conservation and satisfy cultural traditions and values.

With its vast areas of pasture, favourable climate pattern and rational use of inputs, including grains (corn, soybean) and fertilizers, Latin America has all the natural ingredients to be a major livestock producer, to meet food demands and to ensure regional and world food security.

Expansion of the livestock sector in Latin America and the Caribbean

The livestock sector in Latin America has grown at an annual rate (3.7%) higher than the average global growth rate (2.1%). The total demand for meat has recently increased by 2.45%, with a higher demand for poultry (4.1%), followed by pork (2.67%), while demand for beef fell slightly (-0.2%). Beef exports grew at a rate of 3.2%, higher than the growth in the production rate, which was 2.75% (FAO, 2012).

Although Latin America and the Caribbean account for only 13.5% of the world's population, they produce a little over 23% of beef and buffalo meat and 21.40% of poultry at global level. In the case of eggs and milk, the region contributes more than 10% and 11.2% by weight, respectively.

The livestock sector has boomed in recent decades, particularly in the Southern Cone, due to the growth in world demand. This rapid growth has enabled Latin America to become the region that exports most beef and poultry worldwide.

These favourable regional expectations are nevertheless offset by concerns over the high costs of animal feed (60-70% of total production costs), the limited availability of quality forage and inefficient use of available food resources, which affect productivity; the increased risk of transboundary animal pests and diseases; threats associated with the degradation of natural resources and the negative impact of climate change on the livestock sector.

Price volatility and the impact of this on food production and the food security of vulnerable populations; high rates of chronic child malnourishment and malnutrition in some countries - and the higher public demands for wholesome and safe high quality livestock products are also important elements to consider when developing livestock policies. The average household in Latin America spends 19% of its food budget on meat and dairy products.

Sustainable approach

La producción pecuaria familiar juega un rol preponderante para dar solución al problema del hambre en la región. La pequeña producción pecuaria puede y genera una parte importante de los alimentos necesarios para el mercado interno de los países de América Latina y el Caribe, mejorando la seguridad alimentaria y la nutricional, y por ende contribuyendo significativamente al desarrollo nacional.

La producción pecuaria familiar o de traspatio contribuye al crecimiento del producto interno bruto, en algunos casos ayuda a dinamizar las exportaciones de productos pecuarios, genera empleos, además de ser fuente que genera nutrientes para el consumo y es factor clave en la lucha contra la inseguridad alimentaria y el desarrollo rural sustentable.

Los Pequeños Productores que desarrollan actividades pecuarias representan una importante proporción de los pequeños productores en los países de la región y poseen una importante proporción de las praderas y los hatos ganaderos.

La potencial contribución de este sector a la economía agrícola de sus países y a la seguridad alimentaria, depende en la mayoría de los casos de que puedan recibir de manera oportuna los servicios de sanidad animal y veterinarios, asistencia técnica y otros de apoyo que requieren para garantizar la sustentabilidad de sus sistemas de producción.

Los pequeños productores requieren para su desarrollo no solo el acceso a mejores y nuevas tecnologías, sino especialmente a innovaciones en los sistemas de producción, que garanticen su acceso a mercados y o mejoren la contribución del auto consumo a los requerimientos de las dietas alimentarias.

Particularmente para la población pobre, la ganadería puede ser un medio importante que le permita aumentar su potencial, pero no el único. La venta y el consumo de productos animales pueden reducir la vulnerabilidad de los hogares a las privaciones estacionales de alimentos e ingresos, satisfacer las necesidades más amplias de seguridad alimentaria y mejorar el estado nutricional de los más vulnerables, especialmente las mujeres, los niños y los ancianos. La cría de ganado también puede proteger a los hogares de crisis como las provocadas por la sequía y otras catástrofes naturales. La posesión de animales puede incrementar la capacidad de los hogares y las personas para cumplir sus obligaciones sociales y potenciar la identidad cultural. El ganado es también una fuente básica de garantías para la población pobre y permite a muchos hogares obtener el acceso al capital y a préstamos con fines comerciales. Así pues, el ganado es un importante bien de capital que, con una atención cuidadosa, puede dar un impulso a los hogares para salir de la pobreza extrema y beneficiarse de las economías de mercado.

Family livestock production

Family livestock production plays a major role in resolving the problem of hunger in the region. Small-scale livestock production can and does generate a significant part of the food needed for the domestic market of Latin American and Caribbean countries, improving food and nutritional security and thus contributing significantly to national development.

Family or backyard livestock production contributes to growth in gross domestic product. In some cases it helps to boost exports of livestock products and generate employment as well as constituting a source that generates nutrients for consumption and is a key factor in the fight against food insecurity and ensuring sustainable rural development.

Small producers are the key

Small producers carrying out livestock activities account for a major proportion of small farmers in countries of the region and hold a significant proportion of grasslands and cattle ranches.

The potential contribution of this sector to the agricultural economy of countries in the region and food security depends in most cases on the ability to receive appropriate animal health and veterinary services, technical assistance and other support services required to ensure the sustainability of associated production systems.

To ensure their development, small producers require access to better and new technologies and also, in particular, to innovative production systems that ensures their access to markets and/or improve the contribution of self-consumption to meeting their own dietary requirements.

For the poor, in particular, livestock can be an important means of enabling them to increase their potential, albeit not the only means. The sale and consumption of animal products can reduce the vulnerability of households to seasonal food and income deprivation, meet the broader needs of food security and improve the nutritional status of the most vulnerable, especially women, children and the elderly. Livestock breeding can also protect households against crises such as those caused by drought and other natural disasters. Keeping animals can increase the ability of households and individuals to meet their social obligations and enhance their cultural identity. Livestock is also a major source of assurance for the poor and enables many households to gain access to capital and business loans. Livestock is thus an important capital asset that, given careful attention, can help propel households out of extreme poverty and enable them to benefit from market economies.