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Visualising livestock geography

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One of the major limitations in livestock sector planning, policy development and analysis is the paucity of reliable and accessible information on the distribution, abundance and use of livestock. With the objective of redressing this shortfall, the Animal Production and Health Division of FAO has developed a global livestock information system (GLIS) in which geo-referenced data on livestock numbers and production are collated and standardized, and made available to the general public through the FAO website.

Where gaps exist in the available data, or the level of spatial detail is insufficient, livestock numbers are predicted from empirical relationships between livestock densities and environmental, demographic and climatic variables in similar agro-ecological zones.

[Reference: FAO. 2007. Gridded livestock of the world 2007, by G.R.W. Wint and T.P. Robinson. Rome, pp 131, Environmental Research Group, Oxford, and FAO Animal Production and Health Division]

The spatial nature of these livestock data facilitates analyses that include: estimating livestock production; mapping disease risk and estimating the impact of disease on livestock production; estimating environmental risks associated with livestock due, for example, to land degradation or nutrient loading; and exploring the complex interrelationships between people, livestock and the environment in which they cohabit.

It is through quantitative analyses such as these that the impact of technical interventions can be estimated and assessed. Also, by incorporating these data into appropriate models and decision-making tools, it is possible to evaluate the impact of livestock-sector development policies, so that informed recommendations for policy adjustments can be made.

The components of the information system thus created include: a global network of providers of data on livestock and subnational boundaries; an Oracle database in which these data are stored, managed and processed; and a system for predicting livestock distributions based on environmental and other data, resulting in the Gridded Livestock of the World (GLW) initiative: modelled distributions of the major livestock species (cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs and poultry) have now been produced, at a spatial resolution of three minutes of arc (approximately 5 km). These data are freely available through the GLW website1, through an interactive web application known as the Global Livestock Production and Health Atlas (GLiPHA)2, and through the FAO GeoNetwork data repository.

As well as detailing various components of the GLIS, this publication explains how livestock distributions were determined, and presents a series of regional and global maps showing where the major ruminant and monogastric species are concentrated. Spatial livestock data can be used in a multitude of ways. Various examples are given of how these and other datasets can be combined and utilized in a number of applications, including estimates of livestock biomass, carrying capacity, population projections, production and offtake, production-consumption balances, environmental impact and disease risk in the rapidly expanding field of livestock geography.

Informed livestock-sector policy development and planning requires reliable and accessible information about the distribution and abundance of livestock. To that end, and in collaboration with the Environmental Research Group Oxford (ERGO), FAO has developed the “Gridded livestock of the world” spatial database: the first standardized global, subnational resolution maps of the major agricultural livestock species. These livestock data are now freely available for downloading via this FAO page.

On the road, the ‘dhangars’ of Maharashtra

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Jyotiba dhangars from Kolhapur, travelling to Wai, in Maharashtra's Satara district.

Jyotiba dhangars from Kolhapur, travelling to Wai, in Maharashtra's Satara district.

The rapid loss of tree cover in western Maharashtra, together with overgrazing, has reduced the carrying capacity of the land for the animal herds of the pastorals. Many pastoral groups can  no longer sustain themselves on their traditional animal husbandry. The goat, the animal most adapted to degraded vegetation, has become an important herd animal – dhangars in earlier times maintained buffalo and cattle too. The dhangars have also become semi-sedentary, which has hampered their following of a rotational circuit of grazing. The only new resource which has become available is the increased demand of smallholder farmers for manure. Dhangar weavers used to enjoy a good market for their woollen and cotton blankets but mechanisation has all but ruined this occupation, and what market may survive for woven blankets is threatened by the steady impoverishment of the rural population. (Adapted from ‘The Ecological Basis of the Geographical Distribution of the Dhangars: A Pastoral Caste-Cluster of Maharashtra’, by Kailash C Malhotra and Madhav Gadgil, in South Asian Anthropologist, 1981.)

Written by makanaka

December 8, 2010 at 16:12

Pakistan’s crippling crop and livestock loss

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A man uses a large cooking pan as a boat near the Reikhbaghwala village in Rajanpur district in Punjab. Photo: IRIN News / Jaspreet Kindra

A man uses a large cooking pan as a boat near the Reikhbaghwala village in Rajanpur district in Punjab. Photo: IRIN News / Jaspreet Kindra

ReliefWeb has reported the main points of a new briefing on the Pakistan flood situation by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA):

(1) The emergency continues to unfold in the southernmost province of Sindh. Additional towns and villages in Dadu and Jamshoro districts have been flooded in recent days, as Manchar Lake breached its banks. (2) The health cluster warns of an increased risk of malaria, particularly in the south, in the coming days and weeks. (3) A fully revised floods response plan, the Floods Emergency Response Plan (FERP), will be launched in New York on 17 September by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos. (4) Though 74% of the requirements set out in the Pakistan Initial Floods Emergency Response Plan (PIFERP) have now been covered, massively scaled up donor support will be needed to meet the increased requirements set out in the FERP.

The Dawn has reported on the growing losses in Pakistan’s crops and livestock, and it makes for dreadful reading.

“The country has suffered a loss of about Rs250 billion in the agricultural and livestock sectors and the flood recovery costs may run into billions of dollars, local experts and a UN spokesman said on Thursday. The Minister for Food and Agriculture, Nazar Mohammad Gondal, said: “It is difficult to give an exact figure, but I agree that the loss of agriculture and livestock runs into billions of rupees. The floods have destroyed crops of cotton, rice, sugarcane and tobacco worth billions of rupees.”

Javed Saleem, a former president of the Crops Protection Association (CPA), and Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Farms Association (PAFA), said over 17 million acres of agricultural land had been submerged and ripe crops of rice, cotton and sugarcane destroyed. Over 100,000 cows, buffaloes, goats, sheep, horses, camels and donkeys have been lost and 3,000 fish farms and 2,000 poultry farms destroyed across the country. “According to an estimate, the loss of cotton crop is of about Rs 155 billion,” Mr Saleem said.

Mohammad Rezwan, 24, swims one hour every other day to get food from at a World Food Programme distribution in Kashmore, Pakistan. Photo: IRIN News

Mohammad Rezwan, 24, swims one hour every other day to get food from at a World Food Programme distribution in Kashmore, Pakistan. Photo: IRIN News

In Punjab alone, a cotton growing area of about one million acres had been affected and crops worth Rs86 billion destroyed, he said. “The whole agricultural belt that includes Jhang, Bhakkar, Rajanpur, Rahimyar Khan and Layyah has been inundated.” Sindh has lost standing crops worth Rs 95 billion over 100,000 acres. Cotton and rice are the major crops destroyed by the floods. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, over 325,000 acres have been submerged and crops worth Rs 29.6 billion destroyed. Mr Mughal said over one million tons of wheat stock kept in houses had been swept away. “About 1,000 tractors have also been lost,” he said.

The Dawn report said: “According to dealers, the floods have caused a shortage of food items and the prices of fruits and vegetables have increased by 25 to 50 per cent. It is feared that the situation will persist for the whole year till cultivation resumes in flooded areas.”

What will the combination of ruinous losses and soaring prices to do people like Wali Jamote, 50, who fled his village in Nasirabad District early in August, as reported by IRIN News. “I lost everything we had – our tent, the few clothes, shoes and utensils we possess, and worse of all my goats and a camel,” Wali told IRIN. He and his family move every few months in search of fresh pasture: “The animals were all we had. They provided us with milk and cheese, and without them my children have gone hungry.” He said he had been given “no help at all” by any agency.

The cover of Granta magazine No 112 on Pakistan. © Islam Gull, design by Michael Salu

The cover of Granta magazine No 112 on Pakistan. © Islam Gull, design by Michael Salu

Thousands of people camped out along the main road from Quetta, capital of the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan, to Sukkur in Sindh Province, are living in primitive conditions, some with no shelter from the scorching sun. Among them are a particularly vulnerable group: nomads who have lost their livestock. Worse still, Wali and others like him have no idea what the future holds. “Will anyone give me a camel?” he asked. He also said he had no national identity card. “Some soldiers who passed by said I could receive no help without it – but they also said that with no fixed address I was not eligible for one.”

The International Crisis Group has advised that Pakistan’s government and international actors must ensure those in flood-devastated conflict zones are urgently granted the assistance they need to survive and to rebuild lives, without the military dictating rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. Pakistan: The Worsening IDP Crisis, is the title of a new briefing on internally displaced persons from the International Crisis Group.

It highlights how the country not only faces an unprecedented natural disaster, but also confronts the twin challenges of stabilising a fragile democratic transition and countering violent extremism. The civilian government, already tackling an insurgency, and its institutions, neglected during nine years of military rule, lack the capacity and means to provide sufficient food, shelter, health and sanitation without international assistance. But all sides must ensure community-based civil society groups, credible secular non-governmental organisations, and elected representatives lead the process.

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