Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

This member contributed to:

    • Objectives:  

      Broadly, we agree with the proposed objectives and would like to offer some precisions and additions. 

      • ‘Raising the profile and understanding of the contributions of small-scale livestock producers;’ 

        This is an important objective given how marginaised the subsector is, in terms of profile, presence in policy and investment, etc. The contribution should be considered in its broad sense, not only economic, but rather covering the entirety of socio-economic aspects of small-scale livestock production (for example women’s empowerment) and the link to the Sustainable Development Goas (SDGs).  

        This objective should also include increasing the understanding of the different kinds and specificity of small-scale livestock systems. The subsector varies greatly, from subsistence farming to small and medium enterprises, and the guidance tool must account for this diversity and acknowledge that one size does not fit all. The guidance should consider the fact that different species of livestock make different contributions to overall livestock productivity. For example, working animals, such as horses, donkeys and mules, are usually not directly consumed as animal source foods but enable agricultural and livestock production through traction, transport of water, people, produce, equipment and other livestock, use of manure as fertiliser etc. This contribution is rarely fully acknowledged in livestock policy. 

      • ‘Suggesting how common constraints to improved small-scale livestock productivity might be overcome;’ 

        Identifying common constraints and solutions to them ought to be a key objective of the guidelines. However, given the great diversity of the subsector in low and middle income countries, a single solution is not going to work for all. Therefore, the tool needs to offer a degree of nuance and system-specific guidelines in order to be practical and useable.  

      • ‘Identifying actions and practices that small-scale livestock producers and allied value chain actors could implement or advocate for;’ 

        In addition to value chain actors and producers themselves, we encourage a look at actions that can be taken by governments at policy level, from national to local. Policy was identified as a key constraint in the global survey of 2022.  

        Under this objective, it is also worth exploring key enablers of livestock productivity, such as improvements in animal welfare and strengthening animal health systems. Similarly, key challenges should be examined, together with solutions – from climate change and armed conflict, to the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. Leveraging the enablers and addressing the challenges must be a key part of the actions taken and advocated for.  

      • ‘Identifying themes that would benefit from multi stakeholder engagement at national, regional and/or global levels’. 

        Under this objective, the local and community levels need to be considered as well. Local communities are producers themselves as well as key beneficiaries of small-scale livestock production.  

      Nature and scope: 

      ‘The tool could be global in scope but focus on low- and middle-income countries, where small-scale livestock production is most important and productivity is reported to be lower.’ We agree that the focus of the tool ought to be predominantly on LMICs. However, looking at relevant examples from higher income countries may help identify good and poor practice, while taking into account the different contexts and constraints. For example, there are important lessons to be learned with respect to intensification of livestock production, strengthening animal health systems, or policy instruments and their relative merits.  

      ‘Given the great diversity of small-scale production systems and that there is no single, agreed definition of the subsector, the voluntary guidance tool would not prescribe a definition of small-scale livestock producers.’ While we appreciate the challenge of establishing a definition of such a vast and diverse subsector, we believe that the guidance tool presents an opportunity to map out the diversity of the subsector and suggest a working definition. The lack of such a definition could lead to confusion and omissions. For example, lack of clarity as to whether working animals are considered to be livestock or not leads to their exclusion from policy and to underinvestment. If establishing a working definition proves impossible or impractical, we suggest that clear inclusion and exclusion criteria should be established, so that it is clear what scenarios the guidelines apply to. This will have an impact on solutions, which are bound to differ from context to context, for example depending on whether the system produces just for the family consumption versus for the market, whether it employs workers or not, etc. 

      Good practices:

      Brooke is a global NGO that works with livestock-owning communities in circa 15 countries on four continents, predominantly focusing on working animals, such as horses, donkeys and mules.  

      In our experience, voluntary guidelines can only be adhered to if the following conditions are met: all the relevant stakeholders have been identified, consulted, involved and empowered; the stakeholders’ agendas and constraints are well understood and taken into consideration; incentives are developed to encourage compliance (in the absence of formal enforcement mechanisms). Through our work, we have seen these factors at play, for example when facilitating women’s equine welfare groups that agree to pool money for future use as part of microinsurance schemes. We have also worked with owners of brick kilns across South Asia to adhere to voluntary guidelines on human and animal health, safety and wellbeing – giving up shorter term gain for longer term benefits.  

      For the purpose of these guidelines, we suggest that a broad spectrum of stakeholders are included in the development process, such as producers, communities, animal health practitioners, youth, women, persons with disabilities, NGOs working on the ground, and others. A balance needs to be struck with respect to geographic representation and livestock systems (size, scale, species, value chains etc). Particular care must be taken with respect to power relations (including within households) to ensure that local and marginalised voices are heard. Brooke’s experience of working with communities through community development approaches shows that solutions that work best are often the ones people already have and building on these may be better than introducing new measures or practices.  

      Stakeholder engagement, in particular at community level, should be based on two-way communication built over time and through trust. In many large-scale consultation processes, communities, if consulted at all, are often excluded from any follow-up or not even informed about the outcomes and next steps. Organisations such as Brooke, with FAO consultative status and strong networks and trust amongst livestock-owning communities around the world, could act as a bridge between FAO and local actors, offering their networks and expertise, and ensuring that communities are part of not only the development of, but also the implementation of future guidelines.  



      1.    To date, the efforts towards SDGs have not succeeded in reducing socio-economic inequality within and between countries. 

      How can FAO and CSOs work together to regain the momentum lost and work jointly to "leave no one behind”? 

      •    Livestock make a huge contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), yet this topic is largely absent from discussions of sustainable development. FAO should champion the inclusion of livestock in the broader sustainable development agenda, working closely with a variety of stakeholders, including CSOs, especially those who work directly with livestock-owning communities. 

      •    CSOs working on the ground can help FAO identify its ‘blind spots’. FAO defines livestock as ' all terrestrial animals used for food and agriculture’. This definition includes working animals, such as donkeys, horses and mules. However, in practical terms these animals are not considered in FAO’s work, which means that millions of poor people relying on the work of these animas to feed themselves are left behind. NGOs such as Brooke can help FAO understand and begin to address those blind spots. 

      •    FAO and animal health/welfare CSOs can work together to engage animal health practitioners, who play a key role in several SDGs (including 1, 2 and 3). For instance, Brooke has an extensive network of animal health practitioners who work in communities and play a key role in major development issues such as food security (ensuring the health and welfare of production animals and working livestock) and global health (e.g. combatting AMR and zoonotic disease spillover).

      •    FAO should ensure CSOs are involved in the implementation of country and regional projects funded by the World Bank Pandemic Fund, to gain momentum around and achieve SDG 3. Part of the criteria for funding is that CSOs are involved in the implementation of proposals and FAO should ensure this is happening.


      2.    FAO seeks to accelerate transformation of agrifood systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable as a mean to achieve the 2030 agenda.  

      What and how can CSOs contribute to such transformation to boost impact on the ground?  Please suggest concrete actions. 

      •     CSOs play a key role in engaging local communities – often they have been working closely with these communities for many years, they know their needs and have their trust. 

      •    CSOs can provide ‘proof of concept’, as many have on-the-ground projects related to sustainable food production, and have many tools and resources that can be scaled-up that contribute to transformation of agri-food systems. For instance, Brooke has frameworks for training animal health practitioners to ensure the health and welfare of both production animals and working livestock. Working livestock contribute to resilient and sustainable agrifood systems, and healthy production animals contribute to efficiency, resilience and sustainability.   


      3.    Climate change threatens our ability to ensure global food security, eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development. 

      What FAO and CSOs could maximize collective impact to adapt and/or mitigate climate change? 

      •    Again, CSOs can provide proof of concept from projects and programmes that could be scaled up by FAO. CSOs can provide data and insights (including voices of communities, farmers, animal-owners etc) for reports, and FAO-endorsed solutions.

      •    FAO needs to think beyond ‘business as usual’ and work with a variety of CSOs to explore solutions to that may have been under the radar. For example, livestock are vital climate disaster resilience assets and investing in their health and welfare contributes to climate adaptation. 



      4.    Based on your partnering experience, can you share a good example of meaningful engagement with FAO or another UN agency/development partner? Please highlight what/why it worked well in your opinion. 

      Brooke has supported the development of a mentoring programme as part of the Sustainable Business Development for Veterinary Paraprofessionals project with FAO/EuFMD. We developed a module specifically for the training and delivered an online workshop. This worked well because there was a specific contact person for the work and there was personal engagement between Brooke and the project team.  Another ingredient of success was that Brooke had the relevant experience and ready-made tools that FAO could draw on.

      5.    At present, what are the most significant challenges CSOs face in their engagement with FAO?  What could FAO do to address some of those challenges? Please provide concrete examples. 

      FAO can be challenging for CSOs to engage with. Information is dispersed and not always provided in a timely and user-friendly manner. Contrary to other UN agencies, FAO does not have an online platform for CSO engagement (like Indico). All communication goes via email, and is often fairly last minute or incomplete (eg if one is not subscribed to a particular mailing list).  

      Our recommendation is that FAO: 

      •    Establishes an online platform for CSOs to respond to consultations, register for events and make written statements.  

      •    Shares information including requests for input well in advance so CSOs can plan ahead.  

      •    Introduces annual passes so CSOs with consultative can have easier access to the FAO building.  




    • Submitted by: Anna Marry, Senior Global External Affairs Advisor, Brooke

      Brooke welcomes this comprehensive and much needed report on reducing inequalities in food security and nutrition. We particularly welcome the inclusion of livestock not simply as animal-source foods, but in their diversity of roles including draught power and income generation, as well as consideration of the gender dimension – all crucial factors in reducing (or driving) inequalities.

      Question 2:

      Broadening the definition of food security with regards to inequalities is essential and the proposed dimensions (availability, access, utilization, stability, agency and sustainability) cover the broader definition well. However, in our work with livestock-owning communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America we have observed that agency, while important, is often not sufficient. Knowledge and skills are key prerequisites for individuals to exercise agency. With respect to food security, this means knowing what food choices to make, but also being able to adequately care for the livestock that people’s food security depends on. We have seen first-hand that training provided to livestock owners and handlers radically improves the outcomes for both animals and people. We therefore suggest that the definition should include a knowledge and skills aspect.

      Questions 6/ 7:

      While very comprehensive overall, we believe that the report lacks nuance when it comes to inequalities in livestock. We recommend distinguishing between production (e.g. cattle or poultry) and working animas such as horses, donkeys and mules, since they play different roles with respect to equity and equality in food security and nutrition. The document acknowledges that livestock are not only a source of food, but also draught power and income. This warrants an expansion to explain the very different role various types of livestock play in food security and related inequalities.

      Working livestock support food security indirectly, by enabling food production (e.g. as a source of manure, transporting water for crops or other livestock, ploughing fields etc.), but also, crucially, by generating an income that allows families to purchase nutritious food of their choice, as well as pay for other essentials that impact food security indirectly, such as medical bills or school fees.

      It is also worth noting that working livestock play a different, particularly vital, role in women’s lives than other livestock, thus impacting gender inequalities. Two thirds of poor livestock keepers (approximately 400 million people worldwide) are women. In our research amongst poor women in four countries, 77% of participants ranked working equids (horses, donkeys or mules) as the most important species of livestock. Women don’t always own the animals, but they benefit from their work and care for them more often than men do. Women use equids for income generation activities, like waste collection or transporting agricultural produce to market. This income acquired by women tends to be spent on food, medical or school bills, directly benefitting the whole family, in particular children. Crucially, unlike other livestock, working animals help women perform heavy and time-consuming tasks that men do not normally do, such as fetching water for crops, other livestock or human consumption and hygiene. In doing so, they liberate women’s time for other tasks and empower them to gain a higher social status in the community.

      Yet, almost all women we surveyed lack access to training and access to extension services, which would allow them to better care for and make use of their livestock.

      We call on the report drafters to include this important dimension of working livestock and gender, and particularly, to recommend that women are provided with training opportunities and better access to extension services with respect to livestock handling and management.

      In sum, Brooke welcomes this important report and calls for the following additions to be made:

      1. Include the distinction between production animals and working livestock due to the different ways they contribution to food security inequalities;
      2. Include a recommendation for better access to training and extension services for women livestock keepers to further reduce the gender dimension of food security inequalities.