Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

contributions: 45

Livestock keepers' rights - an important concept for food security?

Livestock Development (LPP, Over the last decade we have facilitated the participation of pastoralists and other “small-scale livestock keepers” in the development and implementation of the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources. In a series of consultations that took place on three continents, hundreds of livestock keepers from 20 countries developed the concept of “Livestock Keepers’ Rights”, a “set of principles that would enable and encourage livestock keepers to continue making a living from their breeds and thereby achieve the combined effect of conserving diversity and improving rural livelihoods.” Livestock Keepers’ Rights which initially were just a reflex to the Farmers Rights enshrined in the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources are quite a detailed concept, as you can see below:

Livestock Keepers’ Rights


  • Livestock Keepers are creators of breeds and custodians of animal genetic resources for food and agriculture.
  • Livestock Keepers and the sustainable use of traditional breeds are dependent on the conservation of their respective ecosystems.
  • Traditional breeds represent collective property, products of indigenous knowledge and cultural expression of Livestock Keepers.

Livestock Keepers have the right to:

  • make breeding decisions and breed the breeds they maintain.
  • participate in policy formulation and implementation processes on animal genetic resources for food and agriculture.
  • appropriate training and capacity building and equal access to relevant services enabling and supporting them to raise livestock and to better process and market their products.
  • participate in the identification of research needs and research design with respect to their genetic
  • resources, as is mandated by the principle of Prior Informed Consent.
  • effectively access information on issues related to their local breeds and livestock diversity.

Now, some very recent publications provide evidence about the economic and livelihood importance of pastoralist and small-scale livestock production systems that make use of uncultivable lands and crop by-products. Since Livestock Keepers’ Rights seek to support exactly such systems that make use of locally developed livestock breeds and local feed resources, it seems to me that they are also an important approach to ensuring food security.

My questions are:

  1. Would you agree that it is more important for global food security (to be able) to support smallholder farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists who produce livestock products mostly on marginal lands rather than commercial producers who produce large amounts of cheap animal protein based on imported breeds and imported feed?
  2. If the answer is "No", what livelihood options do we have for the mostly marginal communities?
  3. If the answer is “Yes”, are Livestock Keepers’ Rights a useful concept for strengthening food security and how could they be mainstreamed as general principles for livestock development that contributes to food security rather than undermines it?
  4. How should we deal with the high-input livestock production systems depending on imported genetics and imported feed – do we need some kind of policy mechanism to control them and put them on a level playing field with small-scale, more extensive livestock production which suffers from neglect and marginalisation?

I really hope that these questions will stimulate a lively debate. We will make use of the inputs we receive for our advocacy work and also for a policy brief in preparation for the Convention on Biological Diversity 2010 at Nagoya, Japan, at which we want to raise the issue of livestock and biodiversity.

I thank you all in advance for your contributions.