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Jimmy Smith in Australia makes the case for greater investments in pro-poor livestock development

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI

Jimmy Smith, director general of ILRI (photo: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

The livestock sector plays a significant role in development, but Dr. Jimmy Smith, director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, says this is not reflected in official development assistance—which contributes less than 0.25 percent to livestock.

‘[Jimmy] Smith visited Australia between April 3 and April 7, as the last leg of a global trip that included stops in the United Kingdom and United States. In each country, he pushed for greater ODA toward livestock sectors in the developing world.

‘During his stay, Smith discussed his thoughts with Devex. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

‘Your visit to Australia is timely—we have just had the preliminary release of 2016 ODA figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing Australian contribution has declined. How do you frame discussions on ODA with donor countries when they are reducing contributions?

‘I was in Canberra this week, where I met with the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, largely to discuss development assistance for the livestock sector in the developing world.

‘It’s a difficult conversation. There are multiple needs of countries providing ODA, including Australia, and many of them are dealing with issues such as refugees or security and all of these costs are borne by Treasury. What is left may not be a great deal to spend overseas.

‘We are also discussing the proposed aid cuts by the U.S. and their potential impacts. In the end, we are hopeful that the merit of the investment will gain ground.

The point we make is that development overseas has long term benefits for Australia, the U.S. and other donor countries as well.

‘First, investment in developing countries and livestock agriculture creates markets for donors to sell more of their products to—animal food, agricultural products, drugs and vaccines for example. And by helping to control diseases overseas, you reduce health, economic and social challenges to Australia.

ODA is not entirely gifts to the developing world—there is an enlightened sense of self-interest to the support. . . .

‘Approximately 40 percent of agricultural GDP in developing countries is livestock, but ODA tends to focus in grain and plant-based agriculture. How should development assistance shift to place greater value on livestock?

‘We characterize this as . . .  a missed opportunity . . . because the sector is so important and is going to grow over time. It currently employs much of the poor as smallholder farmers and over time this will be an important area to target, to both reduce poverty in developing countries, as well as provide more of the animal food sources we will need over time.

When we look to trade livestock across borders or as livestock becomes more important in people’s food baskets, we need a better quality and safer product, and there is need for much more investment in this area.

‘But we don’t just make the case that ODA alone needs to be directed towards the livestock sector—developing countries themselves should spend more in this area.

Both developing country governments as well as those helping developing countries should spend more on this sector because of the benefits to food and nutritional security, but also the global goal of reducing poverty. . . .

‘In the livestock sector, what are the challenges for developing countries your programs and research aiming to overcome?

‘Right at this moment there is a drought, hopefully ending, in Africa. We are helping governments there with emergency assistance, or are working on areas where we can provide insurance, for example for livestock in drylands that can suffer from drought. . . .

We’re not a relief agency but we do provide relief assistance through our research, which indirectly helps organizations providing relief services. . . .

‘Has your visit to Australia established collaborative projects? And how will your visits to donors impact the direction of ILRI for the coming year?

‘At ACIAR, we had good discussions on where we might focus our work, with a focus on Southeast Asia. And at the University of Melbourne we have had positive discussions on work we are both conducting with active agendas, which we are going to continue perusing over the next several months.

‘Animal health issues, improving genetic resources, improving markets and environmental research is at the top of these agendas. In the case of Southeast Asia we will be focusing on Myanmar and Vietnam in particular. . . .

Read the whole article by Lisa Cornish on Devex: Q&A: Calls for greater investment of ODA into livestock sectors, 18 Apr 2017.

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