Drought / East Africa / Food Security / Kenya / Livelihoods / Livestock / Nutrition / Pastoralism / Presentation / Somalia / Vulnerability

Livestock critical to livelihoods and life in Africa – USAID advisor

Africa Everyday

Kenya cow bell, on loan from Gary K Clarke, of Cowabunga Safaris, for Africa Everyday Exhibit (image credit: Topeka & Shawnee Country Public Library).

Livestock keeping means food security and livelihoods for the world’s poorest people.

That’s the message delivered by Joyce Turk, senior livestock advisor at the United States Agency for International Development, at a conference last month, where she discussed the importance of animal-based foods to human health and food security.

The livestock sector globally employs 1.3 billion people, either directly or indirectly, and is responsible for up to 50% of global agriculture GDP,” Turk said.

Malnutrition and undernutrition cause 3.5 to 5.5 million deaths annually in children under 5, she continued, before going on to give as an example of the importance of livestock to food security the drought affecting the Horn of Africa, where most of the population keep and herd cattle, sheep, goats and camels for their livelihoods and where famine conditions continue in southern Somalia.

In Africa, livestock are absolutely critical to livelihoods and to life,’ Turk said, . . . and African relief experts are emphasizing that the loss of animals is a ‘critical factor driving families to destitution, famine and death from starvation’.

Animal-source foods, she explained, provide 15% of total food energy and 25% of total dietary protein; in addition, animal protein has 1.4 times more biological value than plant foods, particularly in terms of essential amino acids and micronutrients. This fact, she said, makes milk, meat and eggs ‘critical for immune system functions, cognitive and physical development, work productivity and the life span and quality of life,” among mal- and under-nourished populations.

As evidence, Turk cited a study conducted by the Global Livestock Collaborative Services Support Program on Kenyan schoolchildren and another conducted by the University of Southern Australia.

Read the full article at Drovers CattleNetwork: Livestock critical to human health and global food security, 18 Oct 2011.

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