Global Challenges, Global Solutions
Livestock farming plays a huge role in the rural economy. It not only contributes to around 40% of agricultural GDP globally, but also provides nutritious food and income for countless people. In fact, the FAO estimates that one billion poor around the world depend on livestock for their food and livelihood. Yet it’s no secret that our sector is facing some of its toughest challenges yet, whether that’s facing up to the realities of climate change or adapting our methods to feed a growing population.
So how do we shape the future of livestock sustainably, efficiently and responsibly? This was the question posed by this year’s Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, which I was invited to attend as a representative of the 2017 Youth Ag-Summit, alongside fellow delegate Cameron Olson.
I’m a strong believer that, in livestock and land farming alike, our most pressing issues can’t be handled by individual farmers in any one country. What happens with agriculture affects everyone. We need a global consensus on the way forward, and the GFFA provides a space for business, policymakers, farmers and youth to come together, share experiences and create solutions for sustainable agriculture.
Agriculture has moved on in leaps and bounds over the last century. We now know that, to feed more people, we cannot just increase productivity and take more land under the plow. Likewise, with livestock generating more greenhouse gases than any other food source, we need to adopt greener husbandry methods and be ‘climate-smart.’ We need to intensify production sustainably, and do this with farmers working in tandem with policymakers.
At the same time, a “one size fits all” approach won’t work; we can’t take Western approaches and technology and expect it to easily work in an African smallholder system, with different socio-economic markets and infrastructure challenges. To be sustainable, we need collaboration across all parts of the rural economy, and global solutions fit for local conditions.
The dozens of people I met during the GFFA were so inspiring, and it was encouraging to see how many people, both young and old, are passionate about creating a world with no hunger; where farmers get better profits; where consumers can trust that their food is produced sustainably. In the past, I’ll admit that I’ve been skeptical of international meetings with ministers, finding it hard to believe that they create real change for the average farmer. But that’s not what I found at the GFFA. I was pleased to see their commitment to engaging with young farmers and youth involved in agriculture like me, and their openness to receiving recommendations put together by international youth at the World Farmers’ Organization’s Gymnasium earlier that week. The Forum showed that we need to be looking at how we can get all these people in the same room regularly, to debate, share our experience of what’s working and what is not, and to harmonize political commitments to tackle food insecurity.
By 2050, we’re going to need to feed nearly 10 billion people. For that to happen, we need to create an environment where farmers and livestock can thrive. I’m confident that the Forum will be an impetus for international leaders to translate our solutions into actual policies to improve the rural sector. Because the spirit was there in Berlin!
Here you find photographic impressions from the GFFA, including more pictures with me on the spot.