Voices & Views

Raising EU Citizen's Awareness of Their Role in Development Issues: Livestock and Climate Change


Using slogans such as ‘Eat Food From Family Farms’, and ‘Healthy People, Animals and Environment’, Veterinaires Sans Frontieres Europa (VSFE) manage a number of projects that support small-scale livestock farmers as they adapt to climate change in vulnerable locations. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg: these projects feed into the EuropeAid Development, Education and Awareness Raising (DEAR) programme, which informs EU citizens how their participation and choices can influence a more sustainable future.

Development education aims to develop European citizens' awareness and understanding of the interdependent world, and of their own role, responsibilities and choices in relation to a globalised society. 

The dedicated DEAR programme is powering this drive. It is implemented by civil society actors and local authorities in EU and acceding countries.

This aims to facilitate EU citizens’ awareness in development issues and to support their active engagement in local and global attempts to eradicate poverty, and promote justice, human rights and sustainable ways of living. The EU co-finances DEAR projects, with a budget of approximately €35 million per year, through the thematic programme ‘Non-State Actors and Local Authorities in Development’. 

The DEAR programme focuses on two lines of action:

Global Learning, to foster knowledge and competences to engage with development issues, through the use of participatory and experiential education methodologies, either within or outside the formal education system;

Campaigning & Advocacy, where the objective is to support citizen involvement and advocacy for more sustainable policies, political and economic structures and individual practices, in relation to global development.

EU-funded DEAR projects cover a wide range of development issues and contexts. Between 2005 and 2009, they addressed more than 60 topics. Although most focus on a major theme, many projects tackle additional aspects.

In terms of campaign and advocacy work, the three mains topics of DEAR in 2010 were poverty, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and development policies.  


A vibrant example of a DEAR project is the Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Europa (VSFE) ‘Livestock and Climate Change: the Key Role of Small Scale Livestock Farmers’ project, which has helped raise EU citizen awareness in the livestock sector. The Members of Vétérinaires Sans Frontières Europa taking part in this project are SIVTRO, AVSF, VSF Czech Republic, VSF-Belgium and VSF Europa.

“The project has been implemented in Belgium, Czech Republic, France and Italy to provide European target audiences with the tools to question the many existing misconceptions about livestock and its relation to climate change,” explained Katia Roesch, Project coordinator of the DEAR project with Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF), at a briefing last month at the EuropeAid Infopoint

"Small-scale livestock farmers bring solutions to facilitate adaptation and mitigation in a climate change context," she said. "It is important to promote and support this potential."

So why is there the focus on small-scale livestock farmers, and what can be learned from their climate change adaptation practices?  

In 2006 the FAO launched the often-quoted ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’ report that states that livestock accounts for a staggering 18% of global greenhouse emissions, immediately ahead of transport at 13%. It also states that livestock farming accounts for 70% of all arable land use (one third of which is earmarked to feed crop production) and 30% of the world’s land surface.

But VSFE argue that extensive smallholder livestock farming is not contributing to climate change as much as intensive industrial husbandry. 

According to them, intensive production methods comparatively increase greenhouse gas emissions, with use of nitrogen fertilizers, deforestation linked with massive production systems, and dependence on fossil fuels in the meat supply chain.

Today, some 700 million people are dependent on livestock farming for their food security in environments that are vulnerable to climate change. 

Yet in many of their communities, livestock are seen to play a positive role, not only for food security but also in social, cultural and environmental terms. They provide food and clothing, manure to fertilize crops, traction to work the land and can assure additional revenue. Animals are raised in a sustainable way, counting on grasslands, crop residues and scavenging for fodder. 

“Thanks to traditional knowledge and coping practices, livestock can play a relevant contribution to resilience and adaptation to climate change,“ said Roesch. “For instance, they optimize the use of dry lands and grasslands ecosystems, which is very important also because grasslands have a big potential as ‘carbon sinks’, storing up to 30% of the world’s soil carbon.” 

VSFE supports adaptation practices in pastoralist communities through the implementation of mobility strategies for the sustainable management of land and water resources in arid zones. They assist with strengthening animal health services in rural areas to reduce the impact of emerging diseases. Developing livestock diversity by selection and conservation of local breeds which adapt well to droughts is also important on the agenda, alongside supporting diversification of livestock and agricultural facilities.

VSFE have arranged knowledge sharing exchange visits between livestock association leaders and farmers from the north and south. Attending the Infopoint session was Dienaba Sidibe from Senegalese NGO Directoire Nationale des Femmes en Elevage du Senegal (DINFEL), which receives technical and capacity development support from AVSF.

“It’s been a good cooperation that’s been going for more than ten years,” she said. 

For the DEAR project, to explain the role of small-scale livestock farming in the context of climate variability to European audiences, VSFE undertook scientific research to collect evidence aimed to raise awareness amongst the general public, farmers and policy makers. Then they created an awareness raising campaign, with friendly advocacy materials, and began lobbying for political support

The campaign caught the attention of MEP Michele Striffler, who is now working to provide a better policy framework for small-scale livestock farming in Europe.  

“The first step is done,” said Roesch. “In the Development Cooperation Instrument, the small-scale livestock farmers are now being considered as important stakeholders and this is an excellent result of the advocacy.”

To assist with sustainability of the project, courses on the adaptation and mitigation possibilities of small-scale livestock farming have been introduced in veterinary and agricultural universities in Belgium, France, Italy and Czech Republic. 

“We should be inspired by pastoralist practices to try and reduce gas emissions, and mostly to adapt to the uncertain climate,” said Katia Roesch. “There is a great opportunity here for learning, to inform our own decision making, and to make our northern practices more sustainable.”

More information on this project can be found in the capacity4dev.eu group, What is Next for On-going Projects? (NSA-LA programme seminars) 

Watch this video from VSF about their activities with small-scale livestock farmers in South Sudan, Madagascar and Iran:


This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Laetitia Ricklin, Koen Van Troos and Katia Roesch, with support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission.

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