Poor farmers can benefit from it, only if there are appropriate regulations in place
In the global livestock sub-sector, a revolution is taking place that has profound implications for poor producers, people's health and the environment. In recent years, there has been a massive increase in the demand for food derived from animal origin -- such as milk and meat. The phenomenon has been particularly conspicuous in developing countries such as India and China. India's annual per capita milk consumption, for example, has increased from 62 kg in 1997 to 104 kg in 2000; the per capita meat consumption in the same period has increased from 4 kg to 7 kg. This offers a unique opportunity to increase incomes of poor farmers since it's they who are most often associated with livestock. At the same time, absence of appropriate policies in favour of the marginalised livestock keepers and the environment could further marginalise the poor and damage the ecosystem.
The fast growing industrial production system is another livestock-associated problem. Large industrial cattle farms are on the rise in many parts of the country, especially in urban and peri-urban areas. Managing cattle manure is difficult and the possibilities of the waste getting into our water bodies cannot be ruled out. This is a small problem at present, but can become acute if appropriate measures are not taken immediately.
The environmental problems related to livestock production can be surmounted. What is required is an alternate perspective for a low external input product production system.
V Padmakumar is with the Capitalisation of Livestock Programme Experiences India, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, New Delhi
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