The rise in demand for livestock products, particularly in low and middle income countries. According to the FAO, livestock contributes 40% of the global value of agricultural output and support the livelihoods and food and nutrition security of almost 1.3 billion people.
Cumulative incomes, changing diets and population growth, have made the livestock sector one of the fastest growing agricultural sub-sectors in middle- and low-income countries. This represents a major opportunity for smallholders, agribusiness and job creators throughout the livestock supply chain.
Many small farmers in developing countries own livestock, including cattle, goats, horses, sheep, pigs, rabbits, chickens, donkeys, ducks, geese, llamas, turkeys, grass cutters, and other animals. Livestock can also act as a form of savings or as a walking credit card, according to FAO, thereby allowing families to sell off animals to pay for health care or school. Locally, livestock production systems also contribute to the preservation of biodiversity and to carbon sequestration in soils and biomass.
Livestock production is the major source of rural livelihoods in semi-arid regions of Southern Africa. Even though, nutrition is the major limiting factor of livestock production in these areas characterised by declines in rangeland productivity due to the increases in drought frequency, deliberate overstocking by farmers, and changing weather pattern around Zimbabwe, as a result of global warming. For instance, the grazing resource is strongly influenced by seasonality of rainfall. Poor-quality cereal crop residues are the main dry season supplementary feed source, yet the predominant crops such as sorghum and maize are deficient in protein and other essential nutrients.
Whereas, growing frequency and severity of droughts is increasing food insecurity, however, the livestock sector is facing increasing pressure to reduce its impact on the environment, especially its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the water use of some livestock production systems.
Nowadays, the livestock sector emits an estimated 7.1 Gt of CO2-equivalent per year, representing 14.5% of human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Industrial livestock systems account for 74 percent of the world’s total poultry production, 40 percent of pig meat, and 68 percent of eggs, according to the FAO.
In addition the industry had been hit by crippling economic sanctions imposed on the country by Western nations, which contributed to hyperinflation, huge foreign debts and obsolete transport fleets. Mismanagement of livestock farms worsened the situation. Women and young people in Zimbabwe move across borders in search of better economic opportunities.
In a deteriorating political and economic climate, Zimbabwe has the unrealised agricultural potential that, if carefully managed, could offer a practical path to making Zimbabweans more food secure and help improve livelihoods. The current livestock’s business is incontestably better than it was just a few years ago. And indications are that its growth has only one way to go upward!
Production levels and practices can be managed in ways that address adverse impacts on land, water, and the environment and the risks posed to animal and human health. Increasing the efficiency of livestock supply chains will be key to limiting the growth of GHG emissions in the future. Nevertheless, the government needs to better harness the potential of the country’s land and water resources against a worsening food crisis, to improve livestock’s productivity is necessary.
As communities struggle to make sense of the new weather patterns, promoting the adoption of climate-relevant innovations in livestock production systems and improving surveillance and control of livestock diseases which focuses on vulnerable communities to help them to adapt and anticipate the effects of climate change.