KENYA – Delegates at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi held a discussion about the pivotal role of the global dairy industry in creating sustainable food systems during a side event organized by the International Dairy Federation in collaboration with key partners.

The theme of the event, “Sustainable Dairy Ecosystems: Nutrition Security, Women’s Empowerment, Climate-Smart Agriculture, Action on Nature and Biodiversity Enhancement,” guided discussions among expert panelists.

The event emphasized the positive and negative impacts of ruminant production on various aspects of sustainability, with a specific focus on the environment.

Moderated by Shirley Tarawali, chair of the Global Agenda for Sustainable Livestock and assistant director general of the International Livestock Research Institute in Nairobi, the session featured insights from distinguished speakers.

Krysta Harden, President, and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, stressed the crucial role of dairy in fostering sustainable food systems, citing the U.S. dairy sector’s commitment to biodiversity and soil-health strategies.

“Dairy is a part of and a solution for sustainable food systems,” She stated.

John Walker Recha, member of the FAO LEAP Technical Advisory Group on Ecosystem Services at the International Livestock Research Institute, highlighted the overlooked potential of livestock-farming systems in providing diverse ecosystem services.

He called for a unified approach in mapping and assessing ecosystem services from livestock agroecosystems.

We need action now. We might not have all the answers but that should not stop us from improving,” John R Tauzel, Senior Director at the Environmental Defense Fund, added highlighting the urgency of taking action.

In addition, Lloyd Day, Deputy Director of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in Costa Rica, noted the importance of supporting agriculture for economic development, food security, and sustainable land management.

James Rao, Senior Scientist, and Agricultural Economist at the International Livestock Research Institute discussed market opportunities for livestock products and their impact on enhancing ground cover, carbon sequestration, and pest control.

Meenesh Shah, Chairman, and Managing Director of the National Dairy Development Board of India highlighted dairying as “an insurance for farmers and an instrument for rural prosperity, with a key focus on gender inclusion.”

The experts revealed that the dairy sector, facing the challenge of nourishing a growing global population sustainably, remains at the forefront of fostering resilient food systems and aligning with global climate goals.

In a joint statement, the organizers, including the International Dairy Federation, International Livestock Research Institute, U.S. Dairy Export Council, National Dairy Development Board of India, emphasized the vital role of dairy animals in ensuring nutritional security and supporting biodiversity.

“Dairy animals are vital contributors to rural livelihoods and economies, playing a pivotal role in ensuring nutritional security. Ruminant dairy systems, often underestimated, can positively influence climate and environmental conditions, supporting biodiversity and contributing to human health,” they declared.

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