Global villain, local saviour? What’s the role of livestock in sub-Saharan Africa?

Livestock is one of the most polarised food systems topics, in part because different sectors, disciplines and geographical regions view livestock’s role and impacts in very different ways. While global trends in livestock production are clearly unsustainable, at a local level, livestock can be crucial in supporting livelihoods, as a source of nutrition, in maintaining certain ecosystems and as a climate adaptation strategy. For this reason, even within organisations, we see both areas of agreement and difference in how livestock are viewed and discussed, depending on their assumptions, local and regional perspectives and focus.

This 90-minute moderated panel discussion, co-hosted with Cornell Food Systems & Global Change, will bring together four speakers who focus on livestock from both the sub-Saharan African and the global perspective, each with different experiences and goals in mind. The discussion will look at what these panellists see to be the role, functions, harms and benefits relating to livestock in these different contexts with a view to identifying areas of consensus and disagreement as well as what needs to be explored further. Their differing views are shaped by the evidence they have seen through their work—but also by affinities for different kinds of evidence (experiential, experimental and scientific, traditional). Through this event, we hope to start an ongoing conversation that can shine a light on these different perspectives and start to reconcile the conflicting roles—villain, saviour—in which livestock are cast.