The Colombian roundtable for sustainable cattle - 2022 advances and developments
Latin America and the Caribbean is a key player in the global cattle industry, contributing with more than 25% to the global beef and 10% to the global milk supply (CEPAL et al., 2017). The cattle sector guarantees the region’s food security and contributes to the economy of its countries, highlighting the need to increase the efforts to preserve the growth of the sector (Núñez et al., 2015). Cattle production in the region not only has a long tradition, but also looks at a bright future. The Inter-American Development Bank (BID, 2018) projects an increase in global meat production by 100% by 2050, in response to global population growth, and projects a favorable scenario for Latin American cattle producers due to the region’s geographical position, experience, and human and natural resources.
Despite the importance of the sector for the region and its potential, the environmental effects of traditional or conventional cattle production are numerous and comprise, for example, impacts on water sources, soil resources, and biodiversity, as well as greenhouse gas emissions (BID, 2018; Rao et al., 2015). According to Abbasi et al. (2015), the cattle sector strongly contributes to global warming and climate change due to deforestation for feed and forage crops, degradation of pastures, and greenhouse gas emissions from cattle production. According to Gerber et al. (2013), cattle production is responsible for at least 9.5% of the global greenhouse gas emissions, finding itself increasingly at the mercy of a variety of factors, such as climate change and an increasing demand, forcing it to transform its forms of production
These developments started discussions about the transition from a conventional to a sustainable cattle sector. A sustainable cattle sector is defined as a productive sector that applies a holistic perspective in search of a continuous improvement in terms of quality, productivity, and profitability, considering the conservation of natural environments and resources, as well as economic and social dimensions and implications (MGS-Col, 2019). Related to this is the concept of sustainable intensification, understood as an approach that uses innovations to strengthen agricultural productivity, while reducing the environmental footprint, promoting ecosystem services, and supporting social development of rural communities (Rao et al., 2015). To achieve sustainable intensification, it is necessary to implement a broad set of different actions and innovations, such
as the use of environmentally responsible technologies, the implementation of silvo-pastoral systems, or good animal husbandry practices, among others (DANE, 2015).
The implementation of these actions or innovations, however, requires the commitment of different actors along the beef and dairy value chains, service providers, and, most importantly, the support from the public sector (Lerma et al., 2022), since the expansion of the cattle sector in Latin America and, particularly Colombia, while clearly an opportunity for economic growth for rural communities long affected by poverty and exclusion (FAO, 2015), also includes an environmental threat if the growth is not accompanied by sustainable production practices that mitigate the environmental impacts the sector generates. To achieve this, consensual actions are needed among the numerous actors involved in the cattle sector, that help harmonizing needs, articulating goals and objectives, and lead to continuous improvement when it comes to quality, productivity, and profitability, while preserving the ecosystems, reducing the carbon footprint, and adapting the activity to climate change (Triana and Burkart, 2021).
Within this framework, multi-actor platforms, such as roundtables, have emerged around sustainable livestock production at the global, national, and regional levels, aiming at facilitating and advancing the agenda of transformation towards sustainable livestock production (Buckley et al., 2019; Bisht, 2008). By this, they also try to counteract the low articulation of actors along with their diverse nature, which usually makes it difficult to adequately modernize the sector with sustainable innovations (Enciso et al., 2022; Cashore, 2002).
This document seeks to highlight the work of the Colombian Roundtable for Sustainable Cattle (MGS-Col) in 2022, as an example for a successful multi-actor platform in Latin America supporting the transition of the cattle sector towards more sustainability.