FAO in Ethiopia

Investing in ‘One Health’, key to sustainable growth of livestock production system

Depending on the scenario, cattle population may increase to 90 million heads from 56 million today or it may decline to about 40 million. ©FAO/Yonas Tafesse

25 July 2019, Addis Ababa - With national efforts to support One Health programming to combat zoonotic diseases and other negative impacts at the human-animal-ecosystem interface, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Government of Ethiopia, represented by the Ministries in charge of Agriculture, Health and Environment has released a report on long-term livestock scenarios for 2050. 

The report "The future of livestock in Ethiopia: Opportunities and challenges in the face of uncertainty", an output of the Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 (ASL2050) Program, looks out to 2050 and presents alternative scenarios, or plausible portrays, of the future of the cattle sector in Ethiopia. It portrays  possible livestock futures by shedding light on emerging challenges and uncertain disruptive events associated with a transformed livestock sector and by identifying priority areas of action to take today for a sustainable livestock in the long-term. 

“The report provides invaluable insights to decision-makers on actions to take today to make the Ethiopian livestock sector more robust and resilient to uncertain future, and sustainable from a social, environmental and public health perspective,” said Fatouma Seid, FAO Representative to Ethiopia.  

Opportunities, challenges and uncertainties

The Ethiopian society and economy will grow fast and transform extensively in the coming three decades. This transformative process is therefore expected to exponentially increase the demand for animal source foods and livestock will likely become the most important sector of agriculture. 

Livestock farmers and other actors along the livestock value chains will face expanding business opportunities because of the growing demand for animal source foods. The growth of the livestock sector is also anticipated to affect people’s livelihoods, the environment and public health due to intensification of the system and increasingly reduced wildlife-livestock-human interface.

A scenario analysis indicated that the transformation of the cattle sector might result in less direct livelihoods opportunities from livestock. Smallholder farmers will find it increasingly challenging to derive a livelihood from livestock because of increased competition to access scarce natural resources and inability to meet food safety standards. 

From public health perspective, the future will be characterized by an increased risk of outbreaks of zoonotic diseases, including emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), because of the growing interactions among humans, animals and wildlife. 

The future might result in a fierce competition for land, feed and water. In the favorable scenarios, increased consumption of animal source foods and high level of production pose an immense environmental challenge, while in less appealing scenarios bad management and lack of regulations result in high greenhouse gas emission levels, droughts, land degradation, soil and water pollution and biodiversity loss. 

Thomas Cherenet, Representative of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and ASL2050 Steering Committee Chairperson said, “The evidence generated warrants building a sustainable and healthy livestock systems for the future and the MoA is committed to defining its livestock-focused policies in that manner.” 

The government of Ethiopia, with support from FAO and USAID, has engaged a multitude of stakeholders in the conversations to gather inputs for this report around the knowns and unknowns of the future of the cattle sector in Ethiopia. The report makes a strong case to broaden the perspective and take a forward-looking approach when designing policies and investments in dynamic and rapidly changing Ethiopian societies. The stakeholders did not predict or forecast with accuracy the future of the cattle sector in Ethiopia, but generated evidence on alternative, yet all plausible futures. 


Tadele Mirkena

Animal Production & Value Chain Expert and ASL2050 Focal Point, FAO Ethiopia

Email: [email protected] 


Yonas Tafesse

EU-SHARE PPR Project Extension Communication Officer, FAO Ethiopia

E-mail: [email protected]