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Livestock and the environment

A herd of goats grazing - ©FAO/Ami Vitale

Demand for livestock products will continue to increase as incomes and human population continues to grow.

This sector growth needs to be accommodated in a context of finite natural resources, contribute to livelihoods and long-term food security, and respond to climate change.

FAO’s role in livestock and the environment

Growing populations, rising affluence and urbanization are translating into increased demand for livestock products, particularly in developing countries. Global demand is projected to increase by 70 percent to feed a population estimated to reach 9.6 billion by 2050.

Much of the growth in demand is being supplied through rapidly expanding modern forms of intensive livestock production, but traditional systems continue to exist in parallel.

Demand growth thus also presents opportunities for an estimated 1 billion poor that depend on livestock for food and income.

Whilst the sector provides high value food and many other economic and social functions, its resource use implications are large.

The livestock sector is the world’s largest user of agricultural land, through grazing and the use of feed crops.

It also plays a major role in climate change, management of land and water, and biodiversity.

The natural resources that sustain agriculture, such as land and water, are becoming scarcer and are increasingly threatened by degradation and climate change.

FAO facilitates the sustainable development of the livestock which contributes to food security and poverty alleviation, while reducing its environmental footprint and resource use.

Livestock and the environment activities

FAO provides comprehensive and reliable assessments of the sector environmental impacts and mitigation potential, and the concomitant effects on food security and poverty reduction.

This information is crucial to inform policy dialogue, strategic guidance and advocacy.

FAO facilitates and is actively involved in two multi-stakeholder partnerships, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders (public sector, private sector, producers, civil society and community-based organisations, research and academia, and donors):

  • The Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock aims at catalyzing multi-stakeholder action to improve the sector’s use of natural resources whilst ensuring its contribution to food security and livelihoods.
  • The Livestock Environmental and Assessment Partnership focuses on the development of broadly recognized sector specific guidelines (metrics and methods) for measuring and monitoring the environmental impact of the livestock sector. It strongly relies on FAO’s core analytical capacity and related databases.