Animal-Source Foods (ASF) are nutritionally superior to plant foods and is uniquely beneficial for enhancing the cognitive, motor, social, emotional, and neurophysiological development of infants under the age of two as well as the health of pregnant and lactating mothers. Provision of ASF to children improves brain, muscle, and skeletal development and supplies the iron, protein, calcium and zinc needs of pregnant and lactating women.
Crucially, infants whose mothers receive enough iron during pregnancy are born with iron stores that mitigate the risks of poorer cognitive, motor, social, emotional and neurophysiologic development in the short- and long-term. In an important study in Kenya, adding ASF to diets was associated with better growth, cognitive performance, motor development and activity in first- and second-grade children. Studies in other developed countries have also associated increased ASF consumption with improved pregnancy outcomes, increased infant, preschooler, and adolescent growth, cognition, and activity. Nutritional knowledge and behavior change will inform decisions that livestock holders make about which animals to raise and sell, when to sell, and what to purchase when they generate income from livestock or livestock product sales. There are important gender dimensions to livestock-related tasks, which affect energy needs and expenditures. Thus, attention to how women are involved in livestock production is essential if nutrition is to be improved within the household.
The rapidly growing global population, widespread urbanization, and increasing demand for ASF as household incomes increase further emphasize the importance of increasing the global supply of ASF. Challenges in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia will be difficult to overcome, an it is critical to ensure vulnerable livestock keepers are prioritized in the drive to meet the demand for ASF. Although a significant proportion of the poor keep livestock, the high cost and various cultural and socioeconomic factors prevent ASF from being sufficiently consumed by the poor, particularly by women and children. For instance, among livestock producers in the Ethiopian highlands, income from animal and byproduct sales represented only 1% of total income and ASF consumption was modest and irregular. Therefore, livestock keepers had similar incidences of underweight or stunted children to the rest of the people. In addition, persistent “gender myths” around who may consume ASF decrease the scant consumption by pregnant and lactating females. Consequently, the growing demand for ASF must be met in ways that improve the nutrition and livelihoods of vulnerable livestock keepers, particularly women and children.
Our overall aim is to enhance the production, marketing and consumption of ASF in the target countries in order to increase the incomes, livelihoods, nutrition, and health of households, particularly those of vulnerable women and children. This goal will be achieved through an integrated approach that achieves the following: (1) identifies and prioritizes critical ASF production and marketing constraints and opportunities, with particular attention to those that would increase farmer access to inputs for improved health and productivity, in specific livestock value chains in an integrated, participatory, and gender-informed manner; (2) employs multidisciplinary, integrated research for development to provide location-appropriate feed, forage, genetics, and health technologies as well as improved, evidence-based marketing strategies and methods, that will increase production, consumption, and sales of ASF in an environmentally sustainable manner; and (3) adopts a One-Health approach that minimizes the risk of spreading zoonotic diseases or environmental enteropathy, increases adaptation of livestock systems to climate change, increases income generation by and nutritional status of the vulnerable, particularly women and children, and integrates nutrition and behavior change into production and marketing efforts of ASF.
The Animal Source Food Production & Marketing Systems team is led by Dr. Geoffrey E. Dahl.
Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems
This work was funded in whole or part by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Bureau for Food Security under Agreement # AID-OAA-L-15-00003 as part of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems. Additional funding was received from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors alone.