Greenhouse gas emissions and fossil energy demand from small ruminant supply chains
Guidelines for quantication
The methodology developed in these draft guidelines aims to introduce a harmonized international approach to the assessment of the environmental performance of small ruminant supply chains in a manner that takes account of the specificity of the various production systems involved. It aims to increase understanding of small ruminant supply chains and help improve their environmental performance. The guidelines are a product of the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance (LEAP) Partnership, a multi-stakeholder initiative whose goal is to improve the environmental sustainability of the livestock sector through better metrics and data.
The small ruminant1 sector is of worldwide importance. It comprises a wide diversity of systems that provide a variety of products and functions. In 2011, sheep and goats produced more than 5 million tonnes of meat and 24 million tonnes of milk. Production has increased by 1.7 percent and 1.3 percent per year, respectively, during the past 20 years (FAO, 2013). This increase was driven mainly by developing countries in Africa and Asia. However, Oceania (mainly for meat) and Europe still contribute significantly to production. Production systems can vary from intensive systems, in which animals are partially or predominantly housed, to extensive systems that rely on grazing and native forages, and transhumance systems that involve large flock movements. Products are not restricted to meat and milk; sheep are also valued for their wool (more than 2 million tonnes of greasy wool was produced in 2011), and goats for their mohair and cashmere. Small ruminants also play a crucial role in sustaining livelihoods in traditional, small-scale, rural and family-based production systems. Across the small ruminant sector, there is strong interest in measuring and improving environmental performance.
In the development of these draft guidelines, the following objectives were regarded as key:
These guidelines underwent a public review. The purpose of the review was to strengthen the advice provided and ensure it meets the needs of those seeking to improve performance through sound assessment practice. The present document is not intended to remain static. It will be updated and improved as the sector evolves and more stakeholders become involved in LEAP, and as new methodological frameworks and data become available. The development and inclusion of guidance on the evaluation of additional environmental impacts is viewed as a critical next step.
The strength of the guidelines developed within the LEAP Partnership for the various livestock subsectors stems from the fact that they represent a coordinated cross-sectoral and international effort to harmonize measurement approaches. Ideally, harmonization will lead to greater understanding, transparent application and communication of metrics, and, importantly for the sector, real and measurable improvement in performance.
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