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17.02.2021 - SDGnexus Network identifies research gaps on sustainability trade-offs in Central Asian livestock

In a comprehensive review of current academic wisdom, SDGnexus Network associates Sarah Robinson and Martin Petrick point out key areas for further research on animal husbandry in Central Asia. In the newly released study, they show where current livestock trends may lead to conflicts in achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. A companion publication suggests an outline and material for a training module on the same topic.


Photo by Martin Petrick

One salient trade-off in Central Asian livestock concerns the inclusion of smallholders in the commercialisation of meat and dairy value chains. Smallholders have kept the bulk of livestock since the collapse of collectivised agriculture following the demise of the Soviet Union. However, they may be ill positioned to serve the quality demands of the rising urban middle class.

“A second controversial question concerns the carbon sequestration potential of the vast pasture areas”, says Sarah Robinson, the first author of the report. Assessment of this potential depends on availability of data which is currently poor or lacking. “Sustainable intensification of livestock production can support attainment of multiple SDGs, but may not always be economically viable in a region characterised by vast arid rangelands and a scarcity of arable land for fodder production” The authors therefore recommend more research into the ecological and economic consequences of livestock intensification in Central Asia.

As part of the newly launched SDGnexus Network Working Paper series, WP 1 “Trade-offs among sustainability goals in the Central Asian livestock sector: A research review” addresses farm restructuring and land reform, sustainable grazing systems, fodder production and irrigation, genetic improvement and animal health and value chain development, as well as implications for climate change and agricultural policy. It also examines trade-offs related to the health outcomes of changing diets from rising incomes and the overexploitation of environmental resources due to livestock productivity increases. WP 2 “Sustainable Development Goals and the livestock sector in Central Asia: A course outline” complements the main report.

The SDGnexus Network, supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), is a global community of universities, research centers, and stakeholders that aims to strengthen higher education for enabling effective and innovative contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.  The SDGnexus Network is based at the Center for international Development and Environmental Research (Zentrum für internationale Entwicklungs- und Umweltforschung, ZEU) of Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany.

The SDGnexus Network Working Papers are available on the Working Paper Section of the SDGnexus Network. 

Academic contacts:

Prof. Dr. Martin Petrick

Tel.: +49 641 9937051


Dr. Sarah Robinson

Tel.: +33 5610594442