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Chapter 4: Looking ahead: Elements of future strategies

The need for informed decision-making
The need for consistent policies
The need for institutional development
The need to get prices right
The need for technological change
The need to selectively develop infrastructure
The need to change perspective

Elements of future strategies

THE CHALLENGE for policy makers and environmental and livestock specialists is to fully capture the contribution of livestock in development that will satisfy current and future human needs while maintaining the natural resource base. There is no resource-compromising aspect of animal protein production that cannot he resolved. The technologies exist but their successful adoption is often constrained by the difficulty in creating the right political and economic conditions in which environmentally friendly livestock production can take place. These difficulties stem from different interest spheres and complex links between livestock, the economy and society. Decision-makers in national governments, NGOs, at fanning and community levels and in international and donor organizations, are the actors who must put the policy and technology elements to work within the context of consistent strategies. With government support and willingness to act, there are sufficient mechanisms to keep adverse effects of livestock production within tolerable limits and to enhance the net contribution to human welfare.

The need for informed decision-making

There is ample evidence that current decision-making regarding the role of livestock in sustainable agriculture is hampered by a lack of information and awareness of the type, extent and causes of livestock's current negative and positive impacts on the environment and of what may be expected of any change of policy or action. The complexity of livestock's interaction with other sectors imposes a formidable task at any level of decision-making. Better making. information on which to base decision-making is therefore urgently required. Production systems and ecosystems need to be documented, with emphasis on current hot spots, future environmental hazards, and potential positive contributions. For that, there is a need to:

• take stock of resource endowments ("intrinsic scarcities of production factors"), technologies and policies; monitor resource use, through geo-referencing and assess environmental impact of technologies and policy changes.

• increase awareness among decision-makers, producers and consumers of the environmental effects of different modes of production; educate consumers about the health risks associated with excessive consumption of animal products, particularly in the rich countries;

• increase analytical skills at farming level, schools and universities, government and non-governmental institutions for environmental impact assessment and related policy analyses; further develop economic evaluation techniques for environmental goods at farming, project and national levels.

The need for consistent policies

Any sustainable livestock development strategy has to fully recognize the set of objectives which govern behaviour. For many farmers, the first priority is household food security and family welfare. Less tangible future sustainability of resource use is often traded off against immediate food needs. At a policy level, social and economic objectives may he in conflict with environmental objectives or have different time scales.

With multiple objectives in play a balance must be found between different production systems in different agro-ecological zones or regions, and technological options that govern resource use. The environment warrants government attention as a public good in addition to others, such as public health, equality and economic growth. Policy choices must he consistent with each other and be brought into the wider context of sustainable development. For example, subsidies on feed grains may help to supply inexpensive livestock products to urban centres and develop a "modern" livestock industry but, as has been seen, they often misdirect technology and resource use. It is therefore important to screen all relevant policies against internal consistency and their contribution to overall policy objectives. Once the objectives have been set, it is necessary to assess how current policies and operational measures support or act against these objectives.

In the above analysis we have identified policies that make neither economic nor environmental sense (what may be called a lose-lose situation). These are poorly informed, formulated or simply misguided policies, or the result of the domination of certain interest groups. With growing trade liberalization and reduced public expenditure these are being corrected in many cases. Examples are land titling through ranching in South America or the beef and milk tariff policies of the Common Agricultural Policy in the EU after the initial post war justification become irrelevant. Here, political will must exist to accept possible negative public reaction from the beneficiaries of those policies. This political will is particularly important in countries with strong livestock interest groups.

Other policies make economic sense mainly in the short term, but have negative environmental effects (what may be called a win-lose scenario) in the long term. An example is road construction in tropical forest areas where land requirements and development needs may be in direct conflict with conservation objectives. Here, it is necessary to formulate local and specific complementary measures (i.e. protected areas institutional development) to minimize the trade-off. As has been shown, the majority of negative livestock impacts on the environment fall into this category.

A third set of policies are those that make both economic and environmental sense, but often do not pay off in the short term. These win-win situations are, for example, the reduction of methane emissions through increased animal productivity, livestock-wildlife integration and the use of slaughter waste for alternative feed or energy sources. However, problems occur because benefits that accrue to the global common goods are only slightly or not tangible for the originator of these benefits. A completely new set of mechanisms with novel financing approaches needs to be designed for the protection of these global commons.

In summary, there is a need to:

• set realistic objectives - environmental, economic, social - and decide on the balance between these objectives where trade-offs exist; identify critical conflict areas between broad social or economic objectives and environmental goals; identify policies that bear the potential for trade conflicts and try to negotiate bilateral arrangements;

• develop the analytical skills to screen and monitor policies for their desired and undesired effects;

• correct policies which are misguiding resource use or which have perverse effects; target policies carefully and as directly as possible avoiding sweeping arrangements for cost-effectiveness effectiveness and;

• develop support schemes to finance accelerated adoption of win-win solutions such as benefit sharing through national and international arrangements, such as GEF.

The need for institutional development

With the livestock sector under pressure from surging demand and competition for resources, there is an increasing need for a legal basis with well-defined and enforceable rules and institutions for resource utilization. In fact, a major underlying cause for important externalities is the insufficiently defined access to resources, like open access grazing land for pastoral systems or the use of surface water for the uncontrolled discharge of waste of industrial production systems or processing units. To a certain extent this restricts private behaviour, sometimes resulting in pressure against which the political will has to resist. Institutional development requires:

Preparation of a regulatory framework:

• to establish clear access rights to land. Clear rights of access to land is a necessary although rarely sufficient condition to provide the economic and social incentives to motivate people to protect and improve resources, particularly where traditional regimes of resource management come under pressure such as in pastoral systems and tropical rainforests;

• for land use and regional planning, to establish protected areas for fragile eco-systems, with due attention to local capacity to enforce the protection, and to establish zoning for industrial production systems, to bring the animal densities in line with the absorptive capacity of land and water through quota systems;

• to prescribe regulations for waste control, use of noxious substances, management practices and labeling.

Empowerment of formal and informal institutions where the regulatory framework is available but insufficiently respected or enforced, by providing mandates and support. For pastoral systems in particular, the principle of subsidiarity (Swift, 1995) needs to be applied by transferring responsibility for resource management to the lowest possible level, local groups.

Establishment of a legal authority for the implementation of environmental policies, preferably including an independent non-line agency with a mandate to monitor the use and protection of resources;

Use of participatory approaches in strategy formulation, planning and programme implementation.

The need to get prices right

Ideally, commodity prices should include all direct and indirect environmental costs in order to give market signals that embody the proper valuation of environmental goods. Prices should encourage efficient resource use and guide technologies to anticipated future scarcities. They should promote waste recycling and resource enhancing technologies. Astute pricing is a powerful tool and the instrument of choice where institutions are weak and where the financial or social costs of control become unreasonable. There may need to be differential prices between agricultural or livestock sectors and the rest of the economy. As a general rule a "level playing field" should be provided. Prices of different environmental and agricultural goods should be corrected for market failures where environmental costs and benefits are not adequately internalized. For example:

• eliminate subsidies for inputs such as water, concentrate feed, fossil fuel, fertilizer and reduce or abolish price support for livestock products and directly support farmers' incomes if that is socially or economically desirable;

• introduce cost recovery for communal water and grazing, and public services such as artificial insemination or clinical treatments provided to the producers (Umali et al., 1992);

• introduce levies or taxes for waste disposal;

• create price incentives for methane use and alleviate investment costs (preferred credit) for waste control and conversion facilities with proper targeting and fixed time scale;

• remove tax advantages for different sizes and types of enterprises where this is not warranted by public food or environmental concerns; and

• introduce equitable benefit sharing mechanisms for social and environmental goods.

The need for technological change

Leveling the playing field, and appropriate price signals may induce a different set of technologies. This new set will respond, to a higher degree, to true scarcities as they incorporate the value of environmental goods. This process needs to be facilitated and accelerated.

• Firstly, there is the need to facilitate technology adoption, essentially by training, education and extension and by incorporating environmental aspects into extension messages and curricula; by providing credit where high investment costs constitute an impediment, for example, methane digesters or waste treatment facilities; correcting policies which are misguiding resource use or which have perverse effects; and financially supporting accelerated adoption of win-win solutions such as benefit sharing arrangements.

• Secondly, there is a continued need to generate technologies if the adapted technological solution for more sustainable livestock production is not available. It is important to design technologies that anticipate future resource constraints based on current intrinsic scarcities. To achieve this there is a need to invest in basic and adaptive research and to create and sustain the institutional capacity to undertake the work.

Technological change is the key to solving the problems of sustainable agriculture as technology determines resource use. This study demonstrates that currently available technologies can already significantly increase efficiencies, enhance resources in use and recycle waste at various stages of the production process. The study also demonstrates that knowledge needs to progressively substitute for physical inputs, and that the scope for increasing knowledge about livestock production while simultaneously reducing the use of natural resources per unit of product is enormous.

The need to selectively develop infrastructure

This study has shown the importance of infrastructure, in particular to establish a better balance between livestock and land resources. Infrastructure development is often a prerequisite for technology uptake and resource access. Infrastructure development is a two edged sword in that it not only alleviates pressure on natural resources but also makes them accessible to sometimes uncontrolled exploitation as, for example, in the case of the tropical rainforests. It is therefore necessary to:

• construct, or facilitate the construction of slaughterhouses and dairies, and cold chain facilities in the vicinity of producing areas to avoid waste accumulation in sensitive and urban areas; The better the infrastructure the better the opportunities for geographic spread for intensive systems and for flexibility of adjustment to variable biomass growth in extensive pastoral systems;

• facilitate the establishment of markets, transport and communication while taking account of the trade-offs between increased road and transport infrastructure and biodiversity conservation.

The need to change perspective

All of the above changes will be brought about only if industry, policy makers and environmental groups:

• remove the emotional conjecture, lack of objectivity and over-simplification from the debate on livestock-environment relationships;

• acknowledge the need to correct unsustainable livestock production systems and act accordingly. In the developing world, where environmental pressure will grow most strongly over the next decades, policy makers must heed the strong warning signs and learn from the errors of the industrialized world;

• accept the ample evidence that the contribution of livestock to sustainable development can be greatly enhanced, provided the appropriate enabling environment is created, and act accordingly;

• take full account in future policy and planning of the dramatic changes transforming the global livestock sector. The shift towards grain crops for feed use may turn animal production into the single most important agricultural activity on the planet. Selecting the right land and water resources, efficient generation of feed, transporting feed to farm animals, the conversion of feed into animal protein, the marketing of products as well as the adoption of healthy consumer habits by, particularly, wealthier individuals, plus the potential synergism between efficient resource use and economy-wide development all of these factors need to become integral parts of the livestock-environment equation.


Improved management of the world's natural resources is essential if they are to continue to provide the basis for life support and human well-being. Only with improved management can the dual objectives of sustainable agricultural production be fulfilled - to feed the world's growing population while sustaining its natural resource base. Livestock production is the largest land user and is about to turn into the most important agricultural activity in terms of economic output. Left to uncontrolled growth, not only will the environment suffer but human welfare is also likely to be compromised. However, this is unlikely to happen. The opportunities not only to mitigate environmental damage but to tap the immense development potential that livestock offer are large: awareness, political will and readiness to act are growing among all those involved and ensure that the problems are no longer denied but effectively tackled.

The need to change perspective

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