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Transforming Africa’s livestock sector is key to food security amid surging demand for meat and milk, report finds

Without sustainable growth of its livestock sector, Africa is expected to import up to a fifth of meat and milk within the next 30 years, according to the Malabo Montpellier Panel.. Africa will be unable to meet demand for meat and milk by 2050 and benefit from growth in the livestock sector unless countries adopt new policies and innovations, a new report "Meat, Milk and More: Policy Innovations to Shepherd Inclusive and Sustainable Livestock Systems in Africa" has found. Launched today 15 July 2020 the report says:

  • Meat consumption per capita across Africa is expected to increase from 19kg a year to 26kg a year by 2050 while demand for milk is likely to increase from 44kg per person per year to 64kg.
  • But while Africa’s livestock sector accounts for as much as 80 per cent of agricultural GDP in some countries, on current projections, the continent is likely to need to import 20 per cent of the beef, pork, poultry and milk needed by an estimated population of 2.2 billion in 2050.

Agricultural experts at the Malabo Montpellier Panel analyzed lessons from four African countries that have sustainably grown their domestic livestock sectors to provide recommendations for unlocking the economic potential of animal agriculture and becoming self-sufficient.

  • “With rising incomes and urbanization quickly shifting dietary habits across Africa towards increased meat consumption, the livestock sector will play a crucial role in ensuring food and nutrition security and fostering economic growth in the years ahead,” said Ousmane Badiane, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel.
  • “In this new report, we review the policy and institutional innovations that can strengthen Africa’s livestock sector and provide a major opportunity to boost economic growth, improve livelihoods and advance progress towards development targets.”

The Panel highlighted options for promoting sustainable growth in the livestock sector, drawing on the experiences of Ethiopia, Mali, South Africa, and Uganda in terms of institutional and policy innovation as well as programmatic interventions.

  • For example, Uganda bolstered its dairy sector to maintain self-sufficiency in milk through dedicated policies, including the Dairy Master Plan, which involved restructuring and privatizing the state-owned dairy processing company Dairy Corporation.
  • In Ethiopia, the livestock sector was made a national priority with its own government department when the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries was established in 2013, while the Ministry of Agriculture coordinated a Livestock Master Plan, covering livestock production and fisheries, veterinary services, and pastoral development. Carefully adapted policies for pastoralist and non-pastoralist producers and an integrated approach to building capacity in animal health, research, and marketing attracted significant investment both from the private sector and development partners, further ensuring that the sector thrives.

The expansion of Africa’s livestock sector will create new opportunities for the continent’s rural populations, especially women,” said Noble Banadda, Panel member and Professor and Chair of the Department of Agricultural and Bio Systems Engineering at Makerere University.

  • “For example, households in Uganda saw their dairy income rise by more than 150 per cent through the establishment of regional collection and quality control hubs under the East African Dairy Development project, which allowed farmers to negotiate better prices.”

The report also reviewed challenges facing Africa’s livestock sector ranging from feed quality to animal health and food safety issues, as well as highlighting the role of livestock in the empowerment of women.

  • Productivity, health, and sustainability of livestock must be jointly addressed” said Joachim von Braun, co-chair of the Malabo Montpellier Panel. “This requires broad based innovations especially in animal nutrition, vet services, and digitization of markets.”

The report made 11 recommendations covering policy, trade and finance as well as resolving conflict between pastoralists and crop farmers. Among these were recommendations to harmonize regulations and recognize the rights of herders as well as designing tailored financial services such as livestock insurance.

Panel members highlighted Nigeria’s Grazing Bill, which legalized the grazing rights of pastoralists as part of efforts to end ongoing deadly disputes between farmers and herders.

  • "Understanding the interactions between livestock and the environment is essential to developing a thriving, sustainable livestock sector, including assessing the extent of grassland degradation, land and water pollution, water scarcity, biodiversity loss, and emissions," said Nachilala Nkombo, Panel member and country director for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Zambia.
  • "With rangelands accounting for an estimated two-thirds of Africa's land surface, rangeland degradation from overgrazing is an important threat that can also contribute to conflict between farmers and pastoralists.
  • “Lessons can be drawn from past livestock growth in other developing regions to design and implement policies that effectively manage the trade-offs associated with livestock sector transformation and the environment. With human and livestock populations going up, regenerative approaches to livestock production and management will secure both key environmental services and the sector long-term.”

Elsewhere, countries such as Zimbabwe have responded to the need for more, better quality feed to sustainably grow the livestock sector. Some farmers who received training in the production of forage seeds in eastern Zimbabwe earned up to US$800 each for producing lablab, or Hyacinth bean, which also improved the quality of meat.

And simple mobile technology has been used in Ghana to provide veterinary information and advice to livestock farmers. Within two years of the information service CowTribe launching, vaccine coverage among its users increased from less than 20 per cent to 65 per cent, reducing livestock disease and loss, and adding an estimated US$300 to their annual household income.

The 11 recommendations made by the report were:

  1. Policy framework: Design an overarching policy framework that guides interventions and supports the development of an inclusive, holistic, productive, profitable and sustainable livestock sector.
  2. Regulations: Develop a nimble, clear and harmonised regulatory environment for input and output markets to promote high-safety, quality, nutritious and sustainable livestock activities. Recognise the property rights of herders.
  3. Private sector-led development: Facilitate private sector-led investments in the livestock sector, including in infrastructure and the commercialization of livestock products and inputs. Expand the feed sector.
  4. Finance: Fund the livestock sector, including animal health, animal improvement and research. Design financial services, including insurance, which meet the special requirements of livestock producers (different loan sizes and borrowing durations, alternative forms of collateral, etc.)
  5. Trade: Develop programmes aimed at enabling actors along the livestock value chains to ensure that products meet international quality, food safety and animal health standards to strengthen intra-African and global livestock trade.
  6. Data and research: Increase the availability and access to comprehensive and good quality information and data on all aspects of the livestock sector for sound policy design.
  7. Conflict: Apply a holistic approach to tackle the root causes of conflicts between pastoralists and crop farmers, including a robust network of support services, inclusive legislation that ensures access to land and natural resources to both pastoralists and farmers, and enhanced community-level dialogue.
  8. Ruminants: Increase productivity sustainably, through new technologies and breeding, instead of growing herd sizes. Support the transition of livestock keepers to producers with context-specific, supportive strategies and investment in infrastructure.
  9. Poultry: Leverage employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the poultry sector for women and young people. Better regulate the excessive use of antimicrobials.
  10. Dairy: Mobilise investments in the dairy industry for countries to specialize in dairy production and to strengthen intra-African trade.
  11. Pork: Promote value addition and increase productivity of the pork sub-sector by adopting improved technologies, better management of feed and better compliance with animal health and human safety standards.

About the Malabo Montpellier Panel

The Malabo Montpellier Panel convenes 16 leading African and international experts in agriculture, ecology, nutrition and food security to facilitate policy choices by African governments to accelerate progress towards food security and improved nutrition in Africa. The Panel identifies areas of progress and positive change across the continent and assesses what successful countries have done differently. It then identifies the most important institutional innovations and policy and program interventions that can be replicated and scaled up by other countries. (

Further reading from Malabo Montpellier panels, major reports included in our library as well:

meat milk malabo  energy africadigital agricluture