57 Livestock, livelihoods and food security: civil society responses to pressing equity, ecological and public health crises

Dialogue on agroecological proposals by peasant and agro-silvo-pastoral communities and other civil society’s perspectives on how to address multiple, complex and intertwined challenges

Organizers: Civil Society Mechanism (CSM)


The side event aims to provide the space for small-scale producers, pastoralists, Indigenous Peoples, agricultural workers and civil society organizations (among others) to present their current and future agroecological responses to the equity, environmental and public health crises. It also aims to promote a lively discussion among interested CFS constituencies on how these responses can inform CFS roles in coordination and policy convergence and coherence. The side event design will provide space to many different constituencies, with their diverse voices and perspectives, in order to provide a kaleidoscopic image of the pathways civil society is currently engaged on at various levels

Key speakers

Keynote speaker: Moderator: Stefano Prato, Society for International Development (SID)

Damian Kelly, Permanent Mission of Ireland to FAO, IFAD and WFP, and EU Focal Point for the CFS SADL Policy Convergence

Bettina Prato, IFAD

Maria Teresa Alvarez, World Alliance of Mobile Indigenous People

Dennis Olson, IUF/UFCW

Dirk Verdonk, World Animal Protection

Papis Bakary, CNCR/La Via Campesina



Main themes/issues discussed

CFS43 endorsed a set of policy recommendations on sustainable agricultural development including livestock, following the report of the HLPE. This side event focused on the follow-up: What will be done with the recommendations? Do they satisfy the expectations and aspirations of civil society? In what areas are the recommendations lacking? How can the policy process be further advanced to address the unfinished agenda?

The roles of livestock have often been neglected within policy debates on agriculture. While the HLPE report and the negotiated policy recommendations represent an important to address this policy gap, these are just the beginning of a process that cannot be considered concluded. The event forcefully stressed that the issue cannot be shelved and the policy debate needs to be taken forward. Indeed, many unaddressed issues remain and the HLPE report, while questionable in some of its segments from a civil society perspective, has nevertheless raised issues that were not reflected, or not reflected forcefully enough, in the negotiated recommendations.

Against this background, the participants discussed various vital themes that remain to be addressed. Firstly, the significant tension between production systems and increasing challenges posed on smallholder systems – today’s primary contributors to food security -  by the hegemonic and homogenizing growth of the industrial systems. Secondly, the lack of recognition of the inherent sustainability and resilience of smallholder systems against the devastating environmental footprint of the industrial ones, including the continued underestimation of the importance of agroecology with its holistic approach to all dimensions of sustainability, having evolved for over millennia and hence being in tune with and sensitive to the ecosystems in which it thrives. Thirdly, the health implications of the continued expansion of industrial production, including the promotion of excessive consumption of animal sourced foods and the emerging plague of antibiotic resistance.
The debate also raised other key issues such as the increasing market concentration leading to buyer power abuse which threatens the realization of the right to food, subsidies to animal feed production that increasingly push smallholders to the margins, the unacceptable working conditions of ASF workers and the exploitation of migrant ones, including in industrial slaughterhouses.

Finally, if livestock production has been neglected, this is even more the case for animal welfare within livestock production. Again, agroecological smallholder and pastoral systems were identified as systems that provide opportunities for synergies between animal welfare, livelihoods, biodiversity and climate change mitigation, whereas industrial systems are prone to significant trade-offs.

Summary of key points

The CFS43 policy recommendations on SADL leave a significant unfinished agenda. Key issues that remain to be addressed include:

The tension between systems requires explicit policy interventions: Industrial systems pose threats to smallholder agroecological approaches to achieving food security and nutrition. The space of the latter needs to be protected and expanded by public policies, programmes and investments, while the former needs to be regulated and contained;

The quality of food produced by different systems needs to be taken into full account: the nutritional value of food produced through free-range and organic systems with slower growing breeds and natural diets are shown in research to be of a higher nutritional value than ASF from industrial farming;

Agricultural workers, including migrant and temporary ones, need to be brought under the spotlight. So far, millions of agricultural workers around the world remain invisible, susceptible to exploitation, and provide an enormous, unacknowledged and unfair subsidy of cheap labor to global agribusinesses;  

Buyer power abuse needs to be curtailed. The concentration of corporate power, especially obvious with megamergers, threatens the realization of the Right to Food. Furthermore, corporate concentration exercise undue influence on public policy making, which needs to protected with robust safeguards against conflicts of interests;

The reduction of overconsumption of animal sourced foods (ASF) in some populations and social groups needs to be promoted, to allow contraction and convergence of ASF consumption and improve food security and nutrition;

Increasing global competition for crop acreage between rising biofuels' and meat demand--exacerbated by financial speculation--is causing a rise in agricultural market volatility that needs to be address through reestablishment on strategic grain reserves, and curtailment of financial speculation in commodity markets.

Key outcomes/take away messages

The CFS43 policy recommendations on SADL require significant follow up, especially regarding the following:

  • Smallholder systems, particularly agroecological ones, need to be protected, promoted and expanded upon vis-à-vis industrial systems, which need to be contained and regulated;
  • The overconsumption of animal sourced foods (ASF) in some populations/social groups need to be reduced to create the opportunity for increased consumption in others, while respecting the existing planetary boundaries;
  • The nutritional value of agroecological approaches versus industrial produced food needs to be taken into full account;
  • The rights of agricultural workers, including migrant and temporary ones, need to respected, protected and fulfilled and their conditions of food insecurity urgently addressed;
  • Buyer power abuse needs to be curtailed;
  • Public policy spaces, including those devoted to FSN, needs to be protected from undue corporate influence.