The question is how can we characterize the small-scale livestock producers in pastoral system?
Hassan Mohammed Nur (PhD)Livestock consultant
I am an applied animal scientist and have been working with livestock breed issues in the context of food security and climate change. Climate change is affecting and will affect (worsen) livestock breeds and production systems. Every year new diseases enter the disease register of livestock species. Last year a fatal respiratory camel disease was reported from many quarters of Asia. The disease was linked to the dryness in the desert because of no rains.
On the other hand, introduction of exotic high yielding livestock breeds in the dry lands of the globe is a useless and wasteful exercise. Such breeds need very high inputs. While providing a favorable environment a lot of energy and water are needed. Grain feeding, high veterinary inputs, need for skilled human resources and others are limiting factors of such breeds.
Local/indigenous livestock breeds are very important and play a pivotal role in food security and livelihoods of the livestock keepers in the world. Such breeds need very low or even zero inputs. They rely on marginal lands, not suitable for agricultural activities. Local breeds are highly resistant to the climate change effects, diseases, feed/water scarcity and droughts.
Unfortunately, there is political and industrial backing for the introduction of exotic breeds. Local livestock breeds are always neglected while formulating policies for food security and livestock production. The local livestock farmers are also neglected and never participate in policy formulation. Such circumstances make it difficult to achieve the goals of food security, especially in the climate change context. LIFE Network has introduced the idea of livestock keepers’ rights.
Also climate change issue is always dragging politically. Carbon credits, methane gas production etc, all are considered as the produce of animals, especially livestock. In this context thousands of Australian camels are proposed to be killed/shoot for carbon credits. Such methodologies are unacceptable and cannot help in reality. The same camel can be used as food aid and food security in the drought affected areas, once those camels are provided to Asia, especially Afghan people.
In short local livestock breeds can be the best tool to combat the effects of climate change on one hand and to reach the goals of food security on the other hand
Dancing of the Marrecha Camel of Pakistan.
The Cholistan desert is part of the ancient Hakra River civilization, one of the oldest of the Aryan settlers in the Indian subcontinent. It is one of the largest deserts in Pakistan, inhabited by around 1.2 million Rohi pastoral people practicing mobile livestock husbandry. This production system is extremely important for food security and conservation of livestock and landscape.
The camel is one of the important animal genetic resources and about 80,000 are found in the desert. The main tribe with camel herds is Marrecha. The desert pastoralists also raise goats, sheep and cattle breeds. The major camel breed is Marrecha following by Brela. The precious camel genetic resources are under threat due to commercial agricultural practices, land grabbing and faulty development projects.
The policies come from the top and pastoral peoples do not participate in formulating strategies for development. Hence the projects are not supported by local livestock keepers and always result in failure. There is an urgent need to save this pastoral livestock system, especially the camel breeds. It is suggested that niche marketing, value addition, ecotourism and participation of pastoral people in development policies may help achieve this goal. Organization of the livestock keepers in the region can be an efficient tool to halt land grabbing.
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China, being the largest country with human population has developed its livestock sector efficiency manifolds in last 2 decades. China transformed its production system from a rural based subsistence system to a high in-put and intensive system. The challenge of malnutrition and hunger was beaten by three prong approaches, i.e.
A. Policy Development
B. Investment in Agriculture sector
C. Farm Mechanization and Technology transfer
Now China has enough food to feed it more than 1 billion population on one hand and export some food item on the other hand. All types of animal and plants products are available at comparatively cheaper prices. The food crisis especially of animal origin is no more prevailing.
The other very appealing development in China’s livestock sector is the proper manure management. The manure is used for Bio-gas production and then transformed in LPG or use for power generation. Such development is very much in coordination with the vision of the GAA and sustainable livestock agenda of the FAO.
On the other hand, such high in-put livestock production system resulted in some very serious and negative effects. The native genetic resources for food and agriculture are at stake and many of them are already vanished. Such losses are very noticeable in poultry, pig and cattle genetic resources. Also, small scaled livestock production systems and pastoralism are adversely affected adversely. The importance of all the above three unique resources are well recognized and appreciated globally. The Chinese scientists have realized this phenomenon and striving to cover the losses and improve products quality through minimizing chemical in puts (pesticides, weedicides, synthetic fertilizer) and stimulate organic & Eco agriculture at country level.
Chinese agriculture and livestock sector is a good lesson to learn for the developing nations. Enough food provision is not the only task but a sustainable and eco-friendly production is the ultimate way for a bright future of a nation.
In Sub-Saharan countries, climate change has already been observed for several decades and is characterized by the decrease in mean rainfall with extensive periods of drought followed by short but severe rains. The dromedary camel, adapted to arid lands and low nutritive natural resources, follows the aridification of ecosystems as she/he did so when moving into Africa through the Sinai Peninsula at the beginning of the Christian era. Thus, the on-going desertification in Northern Africa increases the camel distribution area, both geographically and socially, e.g. with regard to its use by people who are not traditionally camel keepers. Elsewhere, camels are used differently, i.e. for their products (milk, agricultural work) rather than for their traditional uses (packing or riding). On the other hand, facing more contrasted crop ecosystems and an unbalanced climate, which seem to contribute to emerging diseases with complex and often unknown aetiologies, caused high unexplained deaths. These global trends would trigger more changes of camel farming systems in Sahelian countries if climate change intensifies continuously in the next decades.
This manuscript is derived from the abstract of an article (Dr Bernard Faye et al).
Faye, B., M. Chaibou, and G. Vias. 2012. Integrated Impact of Climate Change and Socioeconomic Development on the Evolution of Camel Farming Systems. British Journal of Environment & Climate Change, 2(3): 227-244, 2012.