Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

The International Livestock Research Institute welcomes the opportunity to comment on the proposal that the HLPE submits a report on ‘Food Security and Nutrition: Building a global narrative towards 2030.’ We believe that the report should build on the lessons learned from the past 10 years to clearly articulate the challenges, opportunities, processes and partnerships required to achieve food and nutrition security by 2030.

We very much welcomed the previous HLPE reports, and in particular, the report ‘Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock?’ The critical role of livestock and animal source foods (milk, meat and eggs), especially in low- and middle-income countries often gets overlooked in the debate about food and nutrition security. This is partly because of the very negative view of the livestock sector that is promoted through the traditional and social media by some sections of society in developed countries. However generic demands to reduce or eliminate animal source foods from the human diet are at best mis-placed and at worst irresponsible and unethical. Consumption of animal source foods varies hugely regionally (e.g. annual meat consumption in the EU is about 70kg per capita but only 8kg per capita in sub-Saharan Africa, this latter figure being about half the recommended amount). Thus, while reduction in consumption of animal source foods in developed countries may have some merit it is not appropriate to make such calls globally. We need some convergence on intakes – reduction in some part of the world but increases in others. An increase in consumption in animal source foods, especially in vulnerable groups including women of child bearing age and during the ‘first 1000 days’ would have huge benefits. There is growing evidence that it is not possible, especially in low- and middle-income countries, to achieve adequate nutrition in the first 1000 days without animal source foods in the diet. An increase in consumption of animal source foods among children who consume little or none would not only reduce physical stunting, but research evidence shows it would increase social skills, cognitive skills and learning ability. The World Bank estimates that Africa, for example, is losing 10% of annual GDP because of the long-term effects of childhood stunting.

Much of the negative perception of livestock arises because of the perceived negative impact of livestock on the environment, including on climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. While livestock to have environmental impacts most of these impacts rely on data from systems in developed countries being extrapolated to low- and middle-income countries. For example, it is often quoted that it takes 15,000 l of water to produce 1 kg of beef. This figure comes from feedlot type systems common in North America which are very different from smallholder beef systems or pastoral systems in Africa and Asia. Also, greenhouse gas emission levels are available for systems in e.g. North America, Europe and Australasia but not for most systems in Africa and Asia where very preliminary research suggests they are much lower.

We hope that the new report can build on the excellent analysis in the previous report ‘Sustainable agricultural development for food security and nutrition: what roles for livestock?’ I have attached some references that have become available since it was published.