Agriculture: The pathway out of poverty

14 Jan, 2016 02:54 PM
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Catherine Marriott is executive officer of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association.
Catherine Marriott is executive officer of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association.

Have you ever thought about the role that Australia’s livestock industry plays in alleviating poverty in developing nations?

Australians generally don't think about where the origin of our food because for us, food is a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’. We don't know what it is like to really need food, which is something too many of us take for granted.

The conversations in Australia about food ethics just don’t occur in developing nations because families who are struggling to get enough food on the table simply haven’t got the luxury of turning their noses up at caged eggs or genetically modified rice.

Members of Australia’s livestock export industry have a proud record of working with customers in countries with comparably high levels of poverty.

Some 1.4 billion or 20 per cent of the world lives in extreme poverty, trying to struggling to survive on less than $1.25 a day.

World Bank statistics indicate 12.5pc of Indonesians live below the poverty line and in Vietnam, the number is 17.2pc. These rates are declining which is wonderful to see and the role that we as Australia producers, supply chain experts, educators, trainers and government agencies are playing in that space is fantastic.

Australia’s live cattle trade is helping to meet the increase in demand for beef from Indonesia’s growing middle class, which is helping to combat poverty because as more Australian cattle are consigned to Indonesia’s rural feedlots, more and more jobs are being created where they are needed most.

Supplying jobs in rural areas, where poverty is concentrated, is one of the first steps in breaking the poverty cycle. When Indonesia’s rural poor start working in a feedlot, they also learn how to feed livestock.

If they are supplying fodder to feedlots, they are learning to grow crops.

The live export industry creates over 100,000 jobs in Indonesia for rural families, which is a staggering figure.

Ibu Neny from in Indonesia is a wonderful example of how the live export industry is helping alleviate poverty.

Ibu Neny, together with her feedlot worker husband, and their three young children used to eat beef once a month.

Ibu Neny didn’t have a job and with Australia’s breeding programs in feedlots in Indonesia, she was employed to look after the calves.

Subsequently, that family is now able to provide beef twice a month and buy books for her children’s education.

One of the reasons I was drawn to Australia’s live export trade with Indonesia is the way the supply-and-demand system worked so perfectly for both countries.

Australia boasts vast northern rangelands which need to be grazed to increase the amount of carbon present in the soil and assist in overall environmental management.

These rangelands are dominated by a class of cattle that don’t finish well all year round due to the seasonal cycle of Australia’s north.

Across the Timor Sea, Indonesia is nation of wonderfully resourceful people who prepare feed for cattle based mostly on waste products which would otherwise be burnt in a pit.

Turning those byproducts into beef creates protein, jobs and significant economic activity.

The relationship between Australia and Indonesia is mutually beneficial, because our northern cattle industry needs the market demand and the Indonesians need our beef.

Given we are next-door neighbours, it makes perfect sense.

The live cattle trade from Australia is also helping small-scale Indonesian cattle producers in the development of specialized breeding programs.

The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has also done a lot of work in this space with its very successful StrawCow Project.

As an industry our commitment to animal welfare remains stronger than ever, but we should never underestimate our role in improving human welfare too.

We have capacity to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives, in animals lives, as well as environmentally and economically. By managing the supply chain in sustainably, we are ensuring the live cattle trade is well-placed to thrive for many years to come.

Australian producers and exporters involved in the livestock export trade are contributing massively to reducing poverty on a global scale.

It is imperative we continue the great work that is being done and we maintain our track-record for innovation and modernisation.

The power of agriculture and the role it plays in alleviating poverty is enormous.

With all of us working together, we will leave this planet a better place.

Catherine Marriott is executive officer of the Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen's Association.

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