Gone are the days when the development debate focused exclusively on humanitarian assistance. Some rapidly growing developing economies are trying to ensure the poorest households benefit from growth. And in Ethiopia, where approximately 70% of the rural households possess cattle, sheep and goats, livestock is officially at the centre of that debate.
Over the last 20 years, the Ethiopian government has prioritized the transformation of the agricultural sector, yet the absence of a livestock roadmap has hindered implementation. However, detailed inter-disciplinary research, presented today by Barry Shapiro, a scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) at the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) in Addis Ababa, reveals the potential benefits of a comprehensive livestock master plan (LMP) in Ethiopia.
With a relatively modest sum, less than USD 400 million over five years, the joint MoA/ILRI plan aims to reduce poverty among livestock-keeping households by 25%, helping family farms move to market-oriented commercial operations. Beyond the direct impact on rural families, the LMP sees benefits to urban dwellers through lower food prices and the achievement of food and nutrition security at household, sectorial and national levels.
Today’s meeting of Rural Economic Development and Food Security Sector Working Group of the Ethiopian government –attended by UN agencies, NGOs and donors, among others – was called to discuss the establishment of a flagship program for livestock. And the argument in favour of a more focused approach to livestock are strong, as the LMP is projected to meet most of the government’s key Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) objectives.
Contributions from the three pillars of livestock development – breeds, feeds and health – are assessed on key livestock value chains (poultry, crossbred dairy cow, and red meat/milk) for the long-run development of the sector. The plan suggests that investment in crossbred dairy cow development would produce a surplus of milk production over domestic demand by 47%, offering opportunities to enhance nutritional security, industrial output (e.g. in the baking industry) and export earnings. Similarly large gains are expected for red meat/milk production on family farms and among pastoralists and agro-pastoralists.
While these gains may not meet rising red meat/milk demand in Ethiopia, the annual growth rate in the cattle population could be substantially reduced if the projected productivity increases were realized. The transformation of the poultry sector is key, enabling Ethiopia to close the projected total national meat production-consumption gap. If chicken is substituted for red meat coming from larger higher-emitting ruminants, this would also help meet the climate resilience target of increasing the share of chicken meat to total meat consumption from 5% to 27% by 2030.
However, Shapiro adds some caveats. The benefits from the LMP will require investment in changing tastes away from red meat to crossbred chickens. Important investments will be needed in other areas: genetic selection, artificial insemination, the rehabilitation of range and pasture lands and veterinary service provision, as well as a range of health and quality regulation and measures promoting private investment.
Equally significant to the ILRI mission is the process for scaling up what has been learned. The development of the plan has bought together experts within the field to discuss how best to tackle an ambitious objective: promote sustainable development and enhance climate resilience and food and nutritional security, while also contributing to ILRI’s strategic objectives of influencing others and promoting capacity development. If implemented, the LMP would go a long way towards meeting these goals.
The LMP project development process was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and overseen by a high-level technical advisory committee comprising directors of key MoA Livestock State Ministry departments and institutes, as well as representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA) and the presidents of the relevant professional associations of livestock experts (the Ethiopian Society of Animal Production and the Ethiopian Veterinary Association).
The key findings of the LMP policy brief can be found here. The full document will be available shortly.