Africa / Agriculture / Animal Production / Crop-Livestock / East Africa / ILRI / Intensification / Livestock Systems / Pastoralism / West Africa

Sustainable development of animal production systems: Assessing options and strategies

The July 2011 issue of Livestock Science is a compilation of papers addressing different aspects of the sustainability of animal production systems.

According to the editorial introduction, animal production systems are facing large challenges because of their effects on the environment, emerging zoonotic diseases, welfare issues and negative contribution to human health. Unfortunately these negative aspects are not balanced by the potential of animal production to provide high quality proteins and micronutrients essential for growth and development of young children, other products derived from livestock like manure, wool and skins, social security and the pleasure that humans derive from keeping livestock for diverse purposes.

Assessment is an approach to estimate and weigh the different aspects (people, planet and profit) of the sustainability of a production system or value chain. Full treatment of sustainability in animal systems is still rare but is urgently needed to understand the trade-offs between different aspects of the system.

In this issue you will read about how environmental impact and economic benefit are related. In future more complete assessments should become available. Comparative system studies (conventional versus organic, integrated value chains versus loose components, mixed versus specialised) can be very powerful for gaining understanding of differences in performance and process, integration and management. Science will develop methods and tools for better understanding of sustainability. Ultimately it is the human factor: the farmer, the value chain actors, the consumer, that will determine the success of more sustainable animal production systems and products.

This special issue shows that knowledge of sustainable animal production systems is increasing often as a result of working with farmers and herders. Science and practise can mutually benefit from their cooperation and provide consumers with validated choice of sustainable animal foods.

Three of the papers are contributed by ILRI authors:

Pathways for sustainable development of mixed crop livestock systems by Shirley Tarawali and colleagues: Explores whether mixed crop livestock systems can respond to increasing demands for livestock products without compromising future livelihoods of the poor or the environment.

Challenges of assessing the sustainability of (agro)-pastoral systems by Augustine Ayantunde and colleagues demonstrates the diversity of pastoral systems in Africa, identifies the challenges of assessing their sustainability, and proposes criteria and indicators for sustainability assessment of pastoral systems.

Sesbania sesban as a fodder tree in Ethiopian livestock farming systems by S. Fernandez-Rivera and colleagues assesses farmers’ feeding practices and their perception about effects of Sesbania supplementation on sheep performance in various crop-based livestock systems in the Ethiopian Highlands.

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