American University of Beirut

Keep it Traditional by Dr. Shadi Hamade

​The industrial revolution accelerated the advancement of human kind but also significantly contributed to the detriment of the environment and the ecosystem. Dr. Shadi Hamadeh, FAFS Professor of Animal since 1988 works to promote and support traditional production methods as a sustainable alternative to intensive livestock systems.

An important milestone of his research journey is the book Research for development in the dry Arab Region, co-authored with Dr. Rami Zurayk (Chair, LDEM) and Dr. Mona Haidar (Project Officer, UNCCD). The book provides a comprehensive overview of the research team’s findings on agriculture and livestock in Arsaal, a marginal rural town in North Bekaa. The Arsaal project revealed the town’s ability to adapt to the changing ecological climate without resorting to intensive livestock and agricultural systems, which are resource-dependent (requiring large amounts of energy and water for operation), while also showing less flexibility to adapt to environmental fluctuations. Dr. Hamadeh’s research in Arsaal, conducted over the course of roughly 10 years since 1992, has shown that traditional livestock systems are not resource-use efficient, but also very adaptable to environmental changes. Explaining that climate change is already affecting the region, Hamadeh warns that intensive livestock systems will only beco​me more difficult to sustain. While traditional systems are threatened by intensification, Hamadeh believes that a conducive policy framework can help promote and support them. To this end, Dr. Hamadeh strongly advocates in favor of traditional livestock systems, targeting both regional and international platforms, such as The Arab Forum for The Environment and Development.

Scientific evidence indicates that the adaptability of traditional livestock systems makes them remarkably more resilient than their intensive counterparts due to ease of mobility: farmers simply move to better grazing areas as needed; the possibility of changing flock size in response to the prevalent conditions, and dependence on expensive animal-feed supplements. Dr. Hamadeh explains that, in these systems, livestock numbers can shrink and expand in accordance with the market’s needs (buying and selling livestock to increase supply or reduce costs when required). He adds that prevalent intensive systems, more common nowadays, have come under fire for their substantial role in increasing greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, the promotion of more traditional systems can have positive economic impact by reducing meat imports, thereby contributing to self-sufficiency and sustainability. 

Dr. Shadi Hamadeh concludes that the income generated from livestock has significantly declined over the last 50 years, while agriculture has increasingly become a supplementary source of income. Herders have resorted to off-farm work to generate additional income. Hence, the need for a policy framework that incentivizes and assists traditional livestock farmers, one that offers a sustainable livelihood and develops the sector.

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