26 March 2019 – Ensuring livestock production becomes a sustainable system is arguably the most important issue in the global livestock sector right now and in the future, Mr. Berhe Tekola, Director of FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division, told Feedinfo News Service.
According to Mr. Tekola, there are still some production systems, whereby the way the livestock sector operates, produces, and the way it is managing resources is not fully sustainable. For the livestock sector to be more resilient, all actions should be based on sustainability. FAO facilitates and supports continuous and open dialogue among local, national and global stakeholders to promote sustainable livestock development innovations and practices; because livestock systems are at the foundation of our global food, health, environmental and economic systems.
Speaking on the sidelines of the 6th Global Feed and Food Congress in Bangkok last week, he said we have to look at the issue from all the different perspectives and not just from a pure livestock sector interest angle. That means responding to the global challenges, such as environmental, social and economic challenges.
“Efficient resources management will be crucial and so will how we deal with climate change, all the way from production to consumption,” he said.
“The growth in global population will lead to more job creations but potentially to more hunger as well. Governments will see this as an opportunity, but how will this impact the organization of the food chain and how will the natural resources be impacted too? All this creates uncertainties,” Mr. Tekola added.
The climate change issue is not going to disappear and the dynamics of animal and plant diseases are evolving quickly. But Mr. Tekola also highlighted Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as the soon-to-be biggest source of human mortality and it will surpass cancer in 2050, adding that 90% of the cases will be detected in developing countries.
“Awareness raising of the ravages of AMR is a top priority,” he commented. “And so is the importance of collaborating to contain of AMR.”
He again stressed the FAO’s commitment to working with the private sector and believes the industry can contribute to make the livestock and food sectors more responsible and sustainable to achieve important goals such as public health, and animal health and welfare, especially in the current context of globalisation and this nightmarish AMR scenario.
African Swine Fever
The existence of measures or of a harmonised surveillance plan that makes it possible to prevent and control animal diseases and build strong veterinary services is also seen as essential, not only to protect animal health and welfare, but also human health, the economy and social well-being of populations (e.g. it is understood that nowadays, 18% of the world population is dependent on livestock for its livelihood.)
Take the issue of African swine fever (ASF) for instance. Judging by the current pattern (outbreaks in China, northern Vietnam), the ASF spread seems to be heading southwards, with nations like Laos and Thailand at risk. Therefore, application of strict biosecurity measures specific to the different swine producing sectors including frequent cleaning and disinfection of farms, transport vehicles, and improved husbandry practices and production systems are highly required to be set-up.
“Whatever the scenario, the economic impact is huge,” Mr. Tekola said. “Therefore, early warning, early detection and early responses are key.”
The issue also lies in the fact that some nations do not report new outbreaks immediately. The official Chinese notifications took time and it is also widely believed that this was also the case for Vietnam.
“We have to be on continuous alert, monitoring facts and rumours, and work on improving the communication between all stakeholders,” commented the Director of FAO’s Animal Production and Health Division.
For Mr. Tekola, all parties must seek to build trust and strive for transparency by implementing international OIE standards (scientific data, information and food safety rules), promoting equity among nations.
From the FAO’s perspective, the solution here is to continue encouraging partnerships across all industries and set up multiple platforms (public and private) like those it has associated with. One illustration of this is the recent strengthening of a partnership with IFIF announced in November 2018 at the FAO’s 17th annual meeting.
An objective of FAO is to create a dialogue within the Member States and within different clusters, bringing onboard all the different production systems, donors, research and academia, and civil societies. And bring the ideas to the table to simply discuss them.
“In terms of every sector’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), no one should be left behind,” Mr. Tekola said.