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Functions of livestock farming in territorial development

This section will focus on the debate about the functions performed by livestock farming activities, and their contribution to a sustainable development, considering economic, sociological, cultural and ecological criteria.

These functions are linked: to practices and their impact on land; to ecological services that are rendered by livestock farming; to household activity systems; to typified products; to agrarian culture and to landscapes. All of these put together constitute resources for development. Depending on the context, these contributions will neither be identical, and in certain situations livestock farming may only play a negligible role, and be just a fragment of the agrarian history. How does livestock farming fulfil these functions? How and under what conditions or contexts does it contribute to sustainable development? What is the role played by systems developed by States and institutions that guarantee income security or satisfaction of primary needs (food)?

 

a. Livestock farming, products and ecosystem services

Livestock farming through land-use has strong impacts on the environment and hence plays an important role in maintaining some of the functions of the local ecosystems.

The negative impacts of livestock farming on the environment are identified today and in some cases are in the process of being controlled technically even if they are surrounded by controversies (greenhouse gases, soil degradation, pollution) (Steinfeld et al., 2006). Nevertheless, livestock farming activities do contribute to some of the services rendered by the ecosystems such as : scrub encroachment control, carbon sequestration, fertility transfer, biodiversity management and seed transport…

An analysis of these contributions at the local level, factors promoting them, drivers and innovations capable of enhancing these ecosystem functions will be carried out. Inputs from diverse international situations will undoubtedly enrich this analysis.

 

 b. Livestock farming and local projects

Livestock farming has a specific role in contributing to the local economy for example, sectoral high quality production chains based on their link with the territory, collective maintenance of a resource “landscape” (summer mountain pasture for example) enhancing tourist activities. Livestock farming can also be an activity that one can fallback on, as it provides multiple-job holding when the industrial or artisanal sectors are facing hardships… The evaluation of its total economic value still remains an unresolved question.

The network would look at configuration of outputs and the supporting infrastructure and human capacity required to add value to community development.

 

c. Livestock farming and population vulnerability

Livestock farming can also contribute to reducing the vulnerability of livestock farmer population and to building vibrant rural communities. Parallel to its market production function, livestock farming fulfils a diversity of functions that reduce risks: savings function, food for familial consumption (milk), buffer capacity through its capacity to use marginal resources (…).

 

 d. Maintain a diversity of livestock farming functions for territorial development

The combination and the importance of these different functions is undoubtedly specific to each territory but it still needs to be qualified in order to assess the real contribution of livestock farming to territorial development. Assessing how the combinations of functions are built through social forms and techniques of livestock use and their diversity constitutes a complementary step for this analysis.