Agriculture / Australia / Climate Change / Directorate / ILRI / ILRIComms / Interview

Why small-scale farmers and livestock keepers should be the focus of the global food security agenda–Jimmy Smith

Green Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region, Sidamma, Ethiopia

A cow grazes in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Region of Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Kettema Yilma).

More than a thousand delegates are attending the International Grassland Congress in Sydney, Australia, this week, a meeting that only takes place every four years. Giving the opening keynote presentation on Mon 16 Sep 2013 was Jimmy Smith an animal scientist and food security expert.

‘. . . Delegates have heard that reducing the carbon footprint of global agriculture is just one challenge.

Dr Jimmy Smith, head of the International Livestock Research Institute, says the more immediate question is how to feed the world’s booming population.

‘”Estimates show that between now and 2050 the world will need to produce about one billion tonnes more cereal, and about half of that would be used for livestock feed and the other half for human consumption,” he said.

‘”We would need about a billion tonnes of dairy commodities a year by 2050, and we will need about 450 million tonnes of meat annually.”

‘He says the jury’s out on whether producing that much food is even possible.

‘”We are not so sure where we would find the technologies to produce those levels of meat and milk and cereals on a fixed land base, which some say is already reaching its ecological limits, but that’s what our research is about,” he said.

‘”Much of that increase would have to come from increases in productivity, because the suitable land for agriculture has largely been used.”

‘Helping farmers get more bang for their buck is seen as the best way to address food security and to help reduce the huge contribution that agriculture makes to global carbon emissions.

Dr Smith says the focus must now shift from large-scale agriculture to the small-scale farmers who dominate in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

‘”Certainly smallholders of the world who have largely been subsistence farmers, we need to connect more of them to markets,” he said.

‘”And by doing so, we allow them to contribute more effectively to aggregate food supply, but by connecting them to markets, we also allow them to earn more income, because even though there is so much livestock products produced in the world, only about ten per cent of it is traded.

‘”So trade in the livestock commodities is relatively low at the moment, it will increase in the future but it’s still relatively low, so local markets matter.”‘

Read the whole article, and view a short video interview of Jimmy Smith, at ABC Radio Australia: Agriculture conference warned farming changes needed to counter global warming, 17 Sep 2013.

Read about and view the keynote slide presentation Jimmy Smith presented to the International Grasslands Congress on Mon 16 Sep 2013:

ILRI News Blog: Keynote address at Int Grasslands Congress, Part 1: Why the world’s small-scale livestock farms matter so much, 16 Sep 2013.

ILRI News Blog: Keynote address at Int Grasslands Congress, Part 2: Why tackling partial truths about livestock matters so much, 17 Sep 2013.

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