US Professor calls for increased investment in Africa's livestock industry

Professor Max Rothschild of the Department of Animal Science, of Iowa State University, has underlined the need for massive investment in the livestock sector in developing countries.

Investment in the sector, he notes, is woefully inadequate thereby is fueling the decline in livestock production on the African continent. He has, therefore, challenged industry players on the to look for appropriate funding to get things right.

It is estimated that almost 1.3 billion people depend directly on livestock for their livelihoods including 1 billion rural poor. 3.5 million out of the 151 globally stunted kids die annually due to malnutrition.

There is growing evidence that it is impossible for babies to achieve adequate nutrition in the first 1000 days of life without access to animal-source foods, hence his urgent request for investment in the livestock sector in the developing countries, particularly Africa.

It is against this backdrop that, Max F. Rothschild is calling for increased investment in the livestock sector in developing countries. He is worried per capita consumption of livestock in developing countries is only one third that of developed countries.

According to him, it is important for aid agencies and NGOs to fully understand the role livestock play in nutrition, economic development and gender engagement in these countries and contribute towards it.

These are crucial for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda, and it is incumbent upon the world to consider allocating more funds towards the livestock sector in developing countries.

The veteran animal professor made the call during a presentation on “The Role of Livestock in Developing Countries” as part of the 2019 Global Leadership Fellows Program, organized by the Alliance for Science, at Cornell University.

He revealed that the market value of Africa’s animal-source foods will grow from about US$37bn in 2019 to some US$151 billion by 2050, noting more commitment is needed from government and private sector to make this possible.  However, he noted that the developing countries have to embrace modern methods of animal breeding including Genetic Engineering to be able to meet the demand for animal-source food for its citizenry.

Modern animal genetics involves a mixture of modern animal breeding and molecular genetics which include: Selection, Crossbreeding, Gene mapping and identification, Marker assisted selection and Genomic prediction.

Professor Max who is also a Co-Leader of Global Food Security Consortium tasked leaders of developing countries to take stock of the value of livestock to their economies and to the health of their people and then invest in the sector.

Touching on why donors are not willing to support investment in the livestock sector, he described the problem as a complex one. He says it’s because many donors have limited resources for agriculture which they tend to mostly direct to crop production because they think that is the fastest way to feed people.

He noted if leaders of developing countries prioritize livestock production, it would go a long way to better food and economic security and ensure better nutrition, as well as improve value chains that will make the economy better.

“We all know the significant contribution the livestock sector plays in our economies, yet, there is no political will by the leaders of these countries and no interest is also shown by investors and donors”, Professor Max wonders.

Livestock could also produce manure for crops and power in rural areas. He, however, identifies bad roads and poor transport system as a major challenge underpinning the livestock markets in the developing world.

In Ghana, the New Patriotic Party has taken a gigantic approach to revolutionize the ailing livestock sector by distributing 40,500 sheep and goats, 38,000 pigs, 258,000 cockerels, and over 660,000 guinea fowls to livestock farmers and would-be farmers, throughout the country.

That notwithstanding, the whole livestock sector needs a holistic approach, with a common goal of resolving undernutrition and unemployment in the country.

He propounded that, Livestock Genetic and Genomic Revolution is the surest way for transforming the livestock industry in the developing countries. Arguing that Genomic evaluation has dramatically changed dairy cattle breeding in America and the rest of the developed countries, while the rate of gain has also increased primarily because of large reduction in generation interval.

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