September 14, 2016

The Role of Veterinary Medicine and Livestock in International Development

By Amy Smith

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Amy Smith and I’m a third year veterinary student at the University of Florida. There’s a little more information about me in the “About the Authors” page. The most important things to know about me are:

  1. I am passionate about animal agriculture.
  2. I have a strong interest in advocacy and international development. These interests are what led me to participate in the AVMA Governmental Relations Division externship.

Last night, I went to an event about climate-smart agriculture in Africa that was attended by approximately 50 experts on agricultural international development. I was asked by at least three of them why I was there. There was only one mention of livestock in the agricultural development plans for the countries. Almost all of the program directors for the plans had a background in soil/water/environmental sciences but no apparent training in livestock systems. The only mention of livestock at this event was to say that livestock systems in Kenya were a big source of greenhouse gas emissions. At the reception after the event, I conversed with a program director from the U.S. Agency for International Development. I asked him directly where livestock fit into the climate smart agricultural projects created by his agency and he didn’t know. He was surprised by my viewpoints on using livestock for international development and wrote down some of the examples I gave, such as Christian Veterinary Mission’s Give a Kid to a Kid program, to research more.

I’m not mentioning this specific event to point fingers – I am simply trying to use this circumstance to raise a point of discussion. A lot of developing nations treasure livestock production as an inherent aspect of their cultural traditions. If we want to help these nations improve their agricultural production wouldn’t healthcare and preventative medicine for these livestock species be a natural step forward? A study in 2001 showed that in Kenya, access to veterinary medicine was the major limiting factor preventing livestock producers from obtaining care for their animals. I strongly believe that veterinarians need to be part of the international development conversation and veterinary medicine should be regarded as an important aspect of agricultural development.

Preventative medicine and improved healthcare for livestock species has been cited as one of the major driving forces behind the increased per animal production seen over the last 100 years in agriculturally advanced nations. Veterinarians offer a skill set to international development that few others could provide. Our training in reproduction/breeding, epidemiology, orthopedics, medicine and more provides us with the ability to help educate livestock producers worldwide how to produce better animal products in a more humane way. We have the tools, we just need to figure out how and where we can apply them. In agriculturally advanced nations, we have been able to produce greater amounts of animal product with less animals and environmental inputs while also implementing more humane methodology. These advances were made possible through improved preventative medicine, breeding, nutrition, and biosecurity. These technologies and improvements should be made more accessible to developing nations. We could radically transform communities in many developing nations through livestock production education. This is my call to veterinarians (especially those who specialize in food animal species): please lend your talents and gifts to those less fortunate than yourselves. I truly believe (and the literature supports me) that improved livestock production could be a huge source of increased food security and resilience in developing nations and that we could help this improvement occur through providing educational opportunities for the citizens of those nations.

Other resources related to livestock/agricultural education in international development:

One Response to “The Role of Veterinary Medicine and Livestock in International Development”

  1. Kyle Smith Says:
    September 15th, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    Excellent piece. A convincing argument highlighting an important means of improving international economic development. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my daughter.