Livestock: Recognizing their role in sustainable agriculture
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. United Nations Development Programme
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A collection of leaflets outlining the importance of livestock in subsistence farming. Breeding animals is taken to be an ascendant industry on the basis that consumption is low and there is potential for greatly increased demand. To the subsistence farmer, the possession of livestock not only provides a more diverse and thus more secure food supply, it also provides traction power and manure, increasing the productivity of the animal and the agricultural farming. By-products of agricultural production can be used as animal fodder. Livestock is a source of food all the year round, so storage is not a major difficulty, and the fat added to the diet through animal products contributes to what is frequently a deficient calorific intake. While small stock act as a cash buffer, large stock are treated as a capital reserve. The employment created by livestock production is significant to the rural economy and serves to stabilize communities, obviating the need to drift to urban centers in search of work. The leaflets propose that a sense of perspective is needed in reference to arguments concerning the detrimental effects of livestock farming on the environment. Small-stock producers and subsistence farmers cannot be held responsible for the commercially contracted destruction of forest; semi-arid areas often are incapable of sustaining any crop other than grass, and evidence is appealed to which suggests that productivity is increased by grazing such areas quite close to the ground. The emphasis is on management as the key to sustainable farming systems. In terms of the economy, livestock produce fetches a higher price than agricultural produce; the use of local traction and the sale of locally provided goods means that money is not leaving the economy to buy foreign goods. The myth that livestock consume grain that would otherwise feed the poor is challenged on the basis that although grain is used widely in developed grain-rich countries, in developing countries, livestock are used as a means of converting unutilized vegetation into high value products. The leaflets end with recognition of the necessity for development agencies to support livestock projects. It highlights the need for fair commodity prices, more appropriate laws governing land tenure and access, linking production and post-production components to infrastructure, and increased policy commitment as important features in the promotion of livestock production.