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Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition • FSN Forum

Re: Innovations in agriculture to improve nutrition. Share your success stories

Emily Lewis-Brown
Emily Lewis-BrownImperial College LondonUnited Kingdom

Higher welfare farming usually produces animal products of higher nutritional value

Thank you for this opportunity to contribute to this important research area and discussion. I offer two case studies, one from Asia and one Africa, showing that low technology, often low cost interventions can improve the nutritional status of people and be robust in the face of environmental change. Improved animal welfare is an outcome of these farming systems, and can also act as an indicator of farming that is better for people and the planet.

China case study: dual purpose chickens (attachement 1)

On this farm just outside Beijing, a slower-growing, dual purpose traditional breed of chicken is used to rear males chickens for meat and females are raised primarily for eggs and then used for meat at the end of their laying lives. The products receive premium prices at market due to their high quality. The farm is free range, offering higher welfare to the animals, which enjoy good health outcomes: mortality is low, and antibiotic use is low. It is also likely to be environmentally robust as the feeds are largely grown locally and the manure and crop residues are digested to produce energy. Water pollution is also low.

This model of farming could be applied elsewhere, bringing many benefits. In the UK, research shows that chicken and eggs from free-range and slow-growing breeds are of higher nutritional value than from intensive farming of fast-growing breeds. Meat from male chickens also has superior nutritional value. The research demonstrating this is found in attachment 3 and found online:

Research into the nutritional value of the meat from these end of lay hens and males; and the eggs from this farming system would be of value, to support roll-out of this farming style. The successes of this farming model can be used to secure good food and farming elsewhere. It can be used to resist industrial-scale intensive farming with fast growing breeds; wasteful practices; high grain use and associated vulnerability to feed price-shocks, heat and water stress; higher pollution and poorer outcomes for animals, farmers' health and livelihoods. Combining chicken farming with agro-forestry is an additional step that could bring multiple benefits and is worthy of field trials.

Ethiopia case study: water storage (attachment 2)

In semi-arid areas of Africa, access to 
simple technology for storing water can dramatically improve the lives of people and farm animals. This study (2012) found that year-round access to water increased farm yields up to ten-fold, improved food security and nutrition, and farm animal welfare. It also reduced poverty in small-scale farming in the highlands of Ethiopia.

This study shows a mixed farming system where water harvesters have been used to lift farmers from requiring food assistance each year, to being fully independent, productive and self-reliant for food most years. Through saving water for irrigation of crops through the dry seasons, farmers have been able to secure crop productivity for their families and introduce livestock into their farming, adding manure for fuel and fertiliser; draught for ploughing and water carrying; as well as social and economic gains. The food security, nutrition and financial status of these small-scale family farmers have been advanced dramatically through this simple, low cost, easy to maintain technology. It may be adaptable to benefit other semi-arid areas, and areas where the summer melt waters from the Himalayas reduce as the glaciers reduce with global warming.

I hope you enjoy the materials attached and please do contact me for further information. 

Best wishes,

Emily Lewis-Brown,

on behalf of Compassion in World Farming: