Monday, 25 April 2011

Small Ruminants (sheep and Goats) and its Role in the Food Security of the Region

From the early 1970s to the mid 1990s, the increase in meat consumption in the developing countries was almost three times that in the developed countries. While people in developed countries continued to obtain an average of 27 percent of their calories and 56 percent of their protein requirement from animal food products the respective averages in developing countries were 11 and 26 percent. Production of animal food products increased most rapidly in those countries where consumption was also increasing and the total meat production in developing countries grew by 5.4 percent per year between the early 1980s and mid-1990s. This is more than five times the rate seen in the developed world and, without a doubt; we are heading for a Livestock Revolution as reported by IFPRI and FAO. (Livestock to 2020, the Next Food Revolution). With the exception of a few countries, per capita production kept up with population increases in most developing regions, however this was not the case in our region.

Animal Production in the Near East, (Middle East and North Africa) is coming under extreme pressure and it cannot cope with local demands. Its ability to provide sufficient animal protein is diminishing and this is due to many factors including:
·       A constantly increasing population
·       Reduction of traditional pasture lands
·       Recurrent drought in the Region
·       Religious festivals (The Eid of Sacrifice and the month of Ramadan
·       The frequent outbreaks of transboundary animal diseases TAD’s.
Remedying the first four factors, and indeed others, falls to a certain extent within the duties of the individual states, but the last factor is without doubt a regional problem and involves neighbouring states. It is a moral duty and an obligation of the states involved to work together to control, and prevent, these situations. 
The natural resources for agriculture in the Near East are limited due to the factors mentioned above. Except in Sudan and Turkey there are very limited land reserves remaining for horizontal expansion in arable agriculture. Yield increase and increased cropping intensity are the only avenues still open but the fact that 66 percent of the agriculturally suitable areas are permanent pastures indicates a reasonable potential for livestock production, when compared to crop production in the region. In addition, most of the land classified as waste and barren (other land), which is about 57 percent of the total land area, is classified as rangeland and provides significant feed resources to the nomadic and transhumant livestock populations.
The livestock sector, in particular sheep and goats, plays an important role in the national economy of most countries in the Near East Region. The percentage of the Gross National Product (GNP) generated from agriculture in the high-income countries of the Region varies from 1.0 to 4.0 percent and in the low-income countries it varies from 23 to 55 percent (as in the case of Somalia). Based on FAO projections, about 30 percent of the gross value of agricultural output of the countries of the Region was provided from livestock production in the year 2005.
Livestock products make an important contribution to the diet of both the rural and the fast growing urban populations in the region. The average protein content of the diet here is higher than that found in Sub-Saharan Africa, or the diets of the Far East, with meat and milk forming a substantial component.  However, these relatively high levels of consumption are supported by substantial imports, legally and illegally, of animals and their meat from outside the region and, in particular, the large imports of small ruminants for the major Muslim festivals (Eids).
          Over the last 3 to 4 decades the Region has seen a major growth in the poultry industry as poultry meat and eggs played a valuable role in the provision of protein for the human populations. The poultry industry has grown at a rate of 10% per annum in some countries within the Region and poultry meat can form up to 40% of a country’s meat production. However the arrival of avian influenza HPAI within the Region has had a severe impact on the poultry industry in the affected countries, and indeed in all countries of the region. The result of avian influenza has been a drop in meat and egg production coupled with an increase in the cost of the products. Public concern over the safety of poultry products has resulted in an increased demand for red meats and the prices of these commodities have risen in turn.
The combined effect of the reduction in available poultry meat and the increased demand for reds meat leads to a further increase in both the legal and illegal trade of live animals and animal products between the countries of the Region and others. This in turn increases the threat of transboundary animal diseases spreading or being introduced.
In this situation increasing the production of safe red meat within the Region is once more a major priority and the obvious sources of red meat are the indigenous small ruminants the region.
The versatility of the goat as an animal which can survive on poor pastures and provide a source of meat, milk and cheese makes it the natural choice in our endeavours to meet the Region’s protein requirements The goat, the animal which we have ignored in this Region for a long time, may now play a major role in the Food Security of the Region

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