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Building Sustainability through LivestockAround the world, billions are lost to see how vital livestock is to a sustainable lifestyle. For many in the developed world, the meat we buy at the grocery store every week and the process it has to go through may seem a bit amorphous and, some would argue, potentially problematic from an ethical perspective. The importance of sustainable livestock is crucial, not only to those of us lucky enough to be able to simply pick up a wide range of meats at a variety of places, but it can be the marker of success for local farmers and businesses in the developing world.

For those around the world that tend to livestock, they rely on it as a primary food source as well as for economic means. As a source of protein and nutrients, livestock is irreplaceable. Poor and developing countries find it difficult to access nutritionally balanced foods. Therefore, access to livestock such as cows and goats can provide much-needed food and economic relief when it comes to supporting yourself, your family and local businesses with products such as eggs, milk and other dairy products.

The acquisition is especially important in areas that are suffering severely from malnutrition. This is not lost on organizations such as, Oxfam and Heifer International that offer a charitable donation in the form of giving a family the much needed, “gift of sustainability,” as Oxfam calls it, such as a goat. Also, the economic and health benefits of owning livestock are not lost on many nations either. For example, Rwanda has initiated a government assistance program called One Cow per Poor Family (also known as Girinka).

A new study has expressed that this program shows great promise in limiting food insecurity. With Agriculture supporting 80 percent of the Rwandan population, owning livestock can also help with limiting the negative effects of soil infertility. However, in the absence of government assistance programs such as these, many poor families will be left with few options, should their crops fail or if other sources of income are dried up. And while there is no shortage of options when it comes to donating to help with food sustainability in underdeveloped nations, livestock sustainability sadly and continually falls to the waste side.

“The contribution of livestock to the wider rural economy remains under-appreciated by all players in development, except farmers,” says The Guardian in their article, “It’s time to recognize the important role livestock play in tackling poverty.” And with under-appreciation or lack of knowledge typically comes under-development and lack of funding. Additionally, livestock can take on many roles as it helps to keep families from slipping further into economic depression. For example, if the crops that the livestock are helping cultivate suddenly take a devastating turn, as they will often do, families will also have the option of selling the livestock itself to stay afloat.

Livestock also can give women in local communities the chance to not only make a profit but also help build economic sustainability for themselves as well. In a world where half the farmers are female, many women have taken the helm when it comes to raising and cultivating livestock. This work, which can be incredibly profitable, will not only give women a source of income and potential economic independence, but studies have shown that with these newfound funds, women will invest a majority of it back into the household. Those are expanded investments in school, food, healthcare, etc.

With the help of livestock, communities that are being ravaged by poverty have a chance to not only pull themselves out of it, but they provide an opportunity to build a sustainable future for themselves and their community. As long as livestock is brought to the forefront of discussions about poverty and development, then global sustainability can see greater positive results.

Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr

 

Crispr techWith the rise of biotechnology, CRISPR gene editing is on the cusp of eliminating global poverty. CRISPR research began in Asia, the U.S. and Europe, but has since spread to Africa. Gene editing in humans offers a promising resolution for eliminating disease, but it is still undergoing research and development. In agriculture, however, it is already showing more promise. These are four ways CRISPR gene editing could transform and eliminate global poverty.

Although humans have been altering the genes of plants and animals through selective breeding, CRISPR is different in that it does not combine the DNA of different organisms. In CRISPR, a section of one species’ DNA is deleted or altered. This is a different process than with GMOs where insecticide is taken from the soil and inserted into the crop.

4 Ways CRISPR Gene Editing Could Eliminate Global Poverty

  1. Farmers in Africa could breed better livestock. The dairy cow that survives in hot tropical climates, known as the Ankole-Watusi, produces far less milk than the Holstein breed. Holsteins are better off in moderate climates and their productivity is a result of naturally occurring mutations that breeders have aimed for over the course of many years. Scientists at the Centre for Tropical Livestock Genetics and Health at the University of Edinburgh are working with scientists in Africa to study ways to edit the genes of the tropical cow and boost their milk production to that of the Holsteins. At least 80 percent of the world’s poor living in rural areas are smallholder farmers, with livestock being a pivotal component of both their nutrition and income.
  2. Gene editing could improve crop yield. “Africa’s population is expected to more than double by 2050.” In a climate where the yield of basic cereals is five times less than in North America, food production and supplying the demands of the growing population is going to be a challenge. For 40 percent of Africans, the cassava plant is an important food source. While the crop represents security because of its ability to withstand drought, it also faces many issues. Cassava usually has a prevalent amount of toxic cyanide, which must be removed post-harvest. In combination with malnourishment, people who ingest cyanide can get konzo, a neurological disease that affects around 100,000 people in poverty each year. Scientists at the Genomics Institute are working to reduce the cyanide levels in cassava through CRISPR. Unfortunately, diseases like brown streak can wipe out a farmer’s entire field. Scientists in Africa are also exploring ways to make the plant more disease-resistant, so the crop yield will be sustained and improved.
  3. CRISPR may be humanity’s hope in eliminating malaria. In 2017, malaria was the cause of death for at least 435,000 people around the world with 93 percent of all cases occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. CRISPR could change the three species of mosquito most responsible for the disease’s transmission either by making all offspring male and eliminating the species or by adding a gene that makes the mosquito resistant to the malaria parasite. Not only could this cure malaria but it could stop other illnesses carried by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Although the technology is already effective in labs, inserting it into the world could redesign the entire ecosystem, which comes with a heavy burden on the hands of the scientists involved.
  4. New diagnostic methods can easily hunt down the correct genetic sections. Such diagnostic tests could eliminate the spread of diseases like Lassa fever as well as provide a better means of cancer detection. This year, the Lassa fever in Nigeria has killed 72 people and is only expected to get worse. A CRISPR-based test could reduce the death rates of many diseases in impoverished regions. Scientists in Africa are also hoping that these new diagnostic tests could lower the death toll of cervical cancer in Africa where the disease is typically diagnosed too late.

Gene-edited crops are expected to hit the Western market in the next year or so, but Africa is just beginning to see the effects. CRISPR gene editing could transform and eliminate global poverty on a massive scale. With rising population numbers, climate change and urbanization, it’s important that agriculture adapt. The benefits of this technology, which could save the lives of millions of people, should be equally accessible to those in developing countries. These four examples show the ways that CRISPR’s research could eliminate global poverty.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Pexels

Livestock vaccination in MosulIt has been four months since Iraq’s successful recapture of their second-largest city, Mosul, from Islamic forces. After being under siege for three years, Iraq now has the opportunity to implement livestock vaccination in Mosul. Livestock is the second largest form of agricultural income for Mosul residents and approximately 12 million Iraqis depend on agriculture to live securely.

Since Mosul’s recapture in July 2017, thousands of families who had fled during the conflict returned to their homes to find their farms desecrated. Water supplies were contaminated, agricultural supplies destroyed and any surviving livestock had not been vaccinated since 2014. The lack of livestock vaccinations poses a threat of epidemic diseases that can spread to local residents and neighboring countries.

The United Nations and Iraq have come together to implement an emergency animal health campaign to vaccinate all livestock in the hopes it will end the fear and possibility of being exposed to an epidemic disease. Nearly one million sheep, goats, cattle and buffalo are said to be vaccinated. The Iraq Humanitarian Fund will provide the funds for the vaccinations in partnership with Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture. In addition, around 60,000 animals will be provided with nutrient-dense food.

The destruction of agriculture will evidently put a delay in the rehabilitation process, as it will take both time and money to rebuild the land. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a statement seeking $74.5 million to assist 1.39 million Iraqis. The costs will include agricultural rehabilitation, vaccination and feeding of livestock and expansion of income-generating work and activities for the Iraqi people.

“FAO is committed to ensuring that livelihoods are protected, to promote people’s self-reliance and dignity, and reduce dependence on food assistance,” says Iraq FAO representative Fadel El-Zubi.

With the success of infrastructure restoration and livestock vaccination in Mosul, residents will rely less on humanitarian aid and will have access to producing and selling their own food. By next year, 200,000 Iraqi people should be able to begin earning an income from their agriculture again.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

livestock diseases
Scientists from the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa and the University of Alberta in Canada announced the development of a combination vaccine at the Research to Feed Africa Symposium held in the town of Naivasha in Kenya from June 23 to June 27. This vaccine will offer protection from five major livestock diseases: Lumpy Skin Disease, Rift Valley Fever, Peste des Petits Ruminants, Sheep Pox and Goat Pox.

These five diseases greatly impact the health of cattle, sheep and goats across the entire African continent, where 12 of the 16 most devastating animal diseases exist. Although many of these diseases are viral and prohibit areas from developing agriculturally, this innovative vaccine will be affordable, heat-stable and the provider of long-term protection against five livestock diseases.

Farmers in developing countries have much more difficulty acquiring and using effective vaccines when compared to commercial farmers. These emerging livestock farmers are typically not aware of how important vaccines are in protecting the health of livestock, and they encounter other difficulties such as high costs and the uncertainty of how to properly use and store vaccines in a constant cold-chain to ensure their effectiveness.

According to senior scientist at the OVI David Wallace, “For our vaccines to be effectively used by emerging rural farmers, education in livestock care and vaccine use is critical and we expect greater food and economic security through improved animal health.”

Along with being a vital element in primary animal health care, vaccines will also protect a key source of income for many African farmers. Especially in developing countries, livestock not only provide food and clothing, but they are also used as a measure of wealth and social standing within farming communities, showing the diverse use and socio-economic importance of livestock.

This single vaccine only requires one dose, and when compared to the typical three or four doses required for a vaccine, many experts are hopeful that African farmers will take advantage of this cost-effective health measurement.

Many scientists are also hopeful that the results of this new vaccine will be groundbreaking throughout all of Africa as it already has a success rate of 80 percent just from the pilot studies and trials conducted in contained conditions in northern Kenya. Within the first stage of development, the vaccine already protects livestock against Lumpy Skin Disease, Sheep Pox and Goat Pox. Researchers are now hopeful that it will also protect livestock against Rift Valley Fever and Peste des Petits Ruminants in the second stage of development.

Another new vaccine targeting African swine fever is within the first stage of development supervised by researchers from the OVI and the University of Alberta, but progress toward this vaccine is harder to achieve since the virus’s protective components are still unknown.

All of this research was made possible through the 3.1 million Canadian dollars donated by the Canadian International Security Research Fund through the Canadian International Development Research Centre between March 2012 and August 2014. As the second stage of development begins for the five-in-one vaccine, researchers are hoping to receive more funding so the vaccine can reach 100 percent efficacy in protecting livestock against these five diseases.

– Meghan Orner

Sources: SciDev.Net, IDRC
Photo: ILRI

jo_luck

Jo Luck has the resume of the world’s most enviable advocate. She has improved the lives of impoverished people on nearly every continent, while leading the prestigious Heifer International in a variety of innovative initiatives that have assisted over 12 million families worldwide.

A grassroots education determined to end extreme poverty through self-reliance, Heifer International provides families with the tools needed to escape poverty and maintain economic security. Educational programs, including agricultural practices and animal husbandry, are given to help families satisfy basic needs, like food and shelter.  Heifer also donates a farm animal to each family. The resulting food and animal products provide nourishment, in addition to a possible outside income at the local markets.

In return, families are asked to follow the “Passing of the Gift” tradition. They are encouraged to educate those around them, as well as donate the female offspring of their animal to others in need. This simple rule of multiplication has attracted caused numerous donors. Today, Heifer maintains links between the wealthy and poor worldwide in order to resolve poverty issues.

During Luck’s 22 year career with the international nonprofit, Heifer has seen tremendous growth. Upon Luck’s appointment as CEO in 2002, the company assisted 20,000 families. By 2009, the company had helped nearly 1.5 million families. As of today, Heifer International has helped over 20 million families escape poverty.

In 2010, Luck was honored with the World Food Prize for her work with the organization.

Since retiring from her position as CEO in 2011, Luck has devoted her time to chronicling her experiences with the company, while continuing to advocate for change. In addition, Luck remains active in a number of advocacy groups.

She currently serves as the Chair of the Program Oversight Panel for the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research Program, on the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development and at the Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative Advisory Group. She also lends her time to the Farm Foundation’s Dialogue on Food and Agriculture Steering Committee and the DuPont Advisory Committee on Agricultural Innovation and Productivity.

– Jasmine D. Smith

Sources: Heifer International, World Food Prize
Photo: In Kansas

Women Farmers Get Help From USAID Dairy ProjectPakistan’s rural economy has been growing in part due to a USAID-funded Dairy Project.  The project works to help women farmers increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods.  With the project, USAID has trained a group of 5,000 female livestock workers who are available to provide veterinary services and advice on the care and feeding of cattle.  These livestock workers are trained locally and speak the language.  Aside from providing education, the USAID project also provides supplies for animals such as feed, vitamins, and medicine.  The hope is that the USAID Dairy Project will create new jobs and improve the lifestyle of rural farmers throughout Pakistan.

Rural women farmers are a huge part of the workforce in Pakistan. One resident told of how her husband used to work but due to an illness had to quit leaving her as the sole income source for their family.  She was educated through the 12th grade and was able to get a position as one of the livestock extension workers and help both her family and her village.  The hope she will be able to bring to her children and her family is just one of the positive results of the USAID project.

The USAID Dairy Project began in July of 2011 and employs rural women with a high school diploma. They are trained in basic animal health skills and entrepreneurship.  The program has trained 2,470 unemployed women since it began and helps them to earn an average of 2,500 rupees a month. The program aims to train additional 2,530 farmers.  The USAID project has connected rural farmers to livestock experts and pharmaceutical companies and helped them gain additional knowledge and skills.  One of the women involved has been able to treat around 6,000 animals and earn 46,000 rupees. Her household is growing and she is able to reinvest in her own agricultural business.

Dairy and livestock sectors contribute around 11% to the gross domestic project (GDP) of Pakistan. The USAID Dairy Program is helping rural women contribute to the improvement of the sector and earn an income to better provide for their families.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Pakistan Observer

Grasshoppers are the Food of the FutureCould this be your next meal? It may have to be; grasshoppers are the food of the future.

Overpopulation is a real concern for the planet and for “quality of life standards” for every person on the planet. It is estimated that the global population will reach 8 to 10 billion in the next few decades, and with this, a whole new way of life will have to be adopted to meet our needs.

A major transition will have to occur in regards to the food we eat and how food is grown, managed and distributed. Current habits will not be able to keep pace with growing demands. One thing that will have to be downsized is the cattle industry. It is simply not sustainable and efficient for feeding beef to more and more people, and its environmental effects will become even more of a liability.

The solution? Farming and harvesting insects. It takes very little water and transport fuel compared to livestock, grains and even vegetables. It is also far more efficient than raising cattle. One hundred pounds of feed produces 10 pounds of beef. The same amount of feed would produce more than four times that amount in crickets. They are high in protein, iron and calcium, making them a logical food choice; it is already utilized in many regions of the world.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Borgen Project, howstuffworks.com
Photo Source: thejackieblog.com