This opinion paper puts forward a case for formulation of a regional animal feed action plan (RAFAP) and highlights its potential benefits.
A case for a regional animal feed action plan Animal feed and feeding impacts almost all services and operation of the livestock sector, and the sustainability of this sector hinges on how animal feed is produced and fed (Makkar, 2016). Most regions in the developing world have a good natural resource base, favorable conditions and reasonably good availability of ingredients for animal feeds; however, the lack of national animal feed policy, strategy and institutional framework to support the animal feed sector are the major constraints, hindering the feed sector growth.
Livestock sector development strategies are operational in several countries, but they neglect the feed sector, resulting in poor impact in terms of increase in farmers’ income and overall sustainability of the livestock sector. Moreover, in some continents such as Africa, there is a large movement of animals, and natural resources including feed resources are shared among them. As a result, a transnational or a RAFAP and its implementation would enable efficient and sustainable use of such resources, including promotion of safe and quality feed-resource trade. In the feed sector, trade-offs could exist among environment, safety, quality, ethics including animal welfare and pricing dimensions in a region. Most feed-related issues are common to countries in a particular region and can be better addressed when acted in a concerted manner – national action with a regional benefit. The RAFAP could serve as one of the most prudent mechanisms to address common feed issues and challenges and to find solutions in a region.
In light of the above and to address other feed-related challenges, countries in East Africa considered it vital to develop an East African Animal Feed Action Plan (EAAFAP).
This is the only action plan in the area of animal feeding, developed at a regional level (FAO and IGAD, 2019a). An overview of the plan is given in Table 1. To the best of our knowledge, most regions in the developing world, for example, Latin America and Caribbean, Asia or Africa have a common animal disease control plan but lack a RAFAP to address common animal feed issues and challenges across several nations in a region.
There could be several common challenges and solutions for the livestock sector in developing countries that geographically extend from Africa to Asia and Latin America.
To address such issues in a focused manner and given that administrative regions (e.g. East Africa, West Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, among others) do coordinate implementation of interventions, a regional feed action plan could have an important role in sustainable development of the animal agriculture.
The East Africa Animal Feed Action Plan and its benefits Understanding livestock data, disaggregated by livestock production system and type of animals, and generation of feed requirements and feed inventory, as envisaged in the EAAFAP (Table 1), would be key in designing sustainable livestock production systems in East Africa. Improving data and information on the feed resources and animal feed supply chains is critical for countries to study and map strategic points to which feed investments can be targeted. This improved data would be a part of the Big data which the countries wish to build, following the spirit of the famous management quote, if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it. This is a pre-requisite for developing sustainable feed supply chains (Priority Area 2 of the Plan), both for lowlands and highlands in East Africa, respectively, hosting largely grazing and crop-livestock mixed systems. As an example, an assessment of availability and utilization of agroindustrial by-products in Ethiopia (FAO, 2019) has initiated discussions between the breweries and feed manufacturers to efficiently utilize the brewers grains as animal feed.