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The State of Food and Agriculture 2009

Livestock in the Balance

image of The State of Food and Agriculture 2009

This edition of The State of Food and Agriculture is published at a crucial point in time. The world is going through a financial turbulence that has led to a serious economic setback. But this must not mask the global food crisis that has shaken the international agricultural economy and proven the fragility of the global agricultural system. This report discusses the most critical challenges and opportunities facing the sector. It highlights systemic risks and failures resulting from a process of growth and transformation that has outpaced the capacity and willingness of governments and societies to control and regulate. It tries to identify issues that require solutions at various levels to allow livestock sector to meet society’s expectations in the future in terms of provision of both private and public goods. The issue of governance is central. Identifying and defining the appropriate role of government, in its broadest sense, is the cornerstone on which future development of the livestock sector must build.

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Livestock and the environment

Policy action is required to mitigate the impact of livestock production on the environment and to ensure that the sector makes sustainable contributions to food security and poverty reduction. Livestock production, like any economic activity, can be associated with environmental damage. Unclear property rights and the lack of adequate governance of the livestock sector can contribute to the depletion and degradation of land, water and biodiversity. At the same time, the livestock sector is affected by the degradation of ecosystems and faces increasing competition for these same resources from other sectors. Climate change represents a special “feedback loop”, in which livestock production both contributes to the problem and suffers from the consequences. Unless appropriate action is taken to improve the sustainability of livestock production, the livelihoods of millions of people will be at risk.

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