Investing in the Future of Livestock: An Interview with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson

Worldwatch Institute’s Supriya Kumar spoke with Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, projects coordinator for the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (LPP).  LPP supports people in marginal areas to encourage socially sustainable livestock production.
About the Authors 

Supriya Kumar is the Communications Manager at the Worldwatch Institute.

Related Posts 
Supporting Climate-Friendly Food Production 
To Combat Scarcity, Increase Water-Use Efficiency in Agriculture 
Disease and Drought Curb Meat Production and Consumption 
Read More 

“We want to focus on animal culture, not animal industry,” said Dr. Ilse Koehler-Rollefson, while on a visit to Washington, D.C. last year.

“Everyone is worried about a growing human population, but what no one is paying attention to is the fact that livestock populations have grown twice as fast as human population has in the last 50 years. Even more concerning is the fact that the rate of culling is 7 times higher than it was 50 years ago,” said Koehler-Rollefson. These are just a few signs of how unsustainable current methods of livestock production are.

LPP was started in 1992 by a small group of veterinary and other concerned professionals, including Koehler-Rollefson, to support pastoral societies and other small-scale livestock keepers through research, technical support, advisory services, and advocacy. “Many government policies are now focused on industrial and factory farms. Our mission is to address any gaps between the needs of the small-scale livestock keepers. We also work with family and smallholder farms as well.”

Koehler-Rollefson visited Washington, D.C. to advocate for livestock keepers in national and international agricultural policy decisions at the High-level Consultation for a Global Livestock Agenda to 2020. Other groups at the meeting represented big names and organizations in the livestock sector, including the International Livestock Research Institute, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. But no one, other than Koehler-Rollefson, was present to represent smaller-scale livestock producers and pastoralists.

LPP uses three main approaches in their advocacy efforts. One approach is the Biological Community Protocol (BCP), which aims to empower livestock keepers as stewards of biological diversity under the protection of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. Under this Convention, countries are committed to support and protect local and indigenous communities who are helping to improve biodiversity.

Their second approach is the Ark of Livestock Biodiversity project in India, Kenya, and Pakistan that determines whether the nutritional value of products from indigenous livestock production is better than industry-produced livestock. “What we found in India is that consumers are also willing to pay a higher price for these products because of their nutritional and medicinal values,” said Koehler-Rollefson.

LPP’s third approach is to advocate for expanding livestock keepers’ rights through the implementation of an international legal framework for livestock keepers working to conserve biodiversity. “Currently, there is only an international convention for farmers who are working to preserve plant biodiversity. We are pushing for an equivalent framework that would give these pastoralists rights and also include them in policymaking and breeding decisions.“

When asked about the biggest challenges faced by LPP, Koehler-Rollefson said, “Changing the mind frame of people. Most people, including animal scientists, are too concerned with the ‘gross paradigm,’ or the belief that productivity is the bottom line. They are so focused on output that they neglect to consider the side effects of such a system, such as greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and the spread of diseases.”

She added, “We need to educate policymakers and make them realize that food security will not be accomplished by merely producing more. We need to show them the value that these pastoralists have in not only providing food, but also in protecting our environment and preserving our natural biodiversity. With their years of experience, these keepers are the true ambassadors and their voices need to be heard.”

For more information on the League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development, please visit their website by clicking here.