Livestock services factsheet - IFAD

Livestock services factsheet - IFAD



Tending to a povertyfree


Nearly one billion head of livestock are kept

by more than 600 million small farmers

and herders in rural areas around the world.

Most of these livestock keepers – about

95 per cent – live in extreme poverty.

Even though livestock keeping offers a promising opportunity to

combat poverty in many developing countries, especially as the

demand for animal products such as milk and meat continues to

rise, most livestock policies and services tend to favour large-scale

production. In order to take advantage of emerging market

demands and reduce their poverty, small farmers and herders need

access to basic services and technologies, such as veterinary care,

good roads and grazing lands, as well as policies that take account

of their needs.

Getting access to the right resources

The right kind of livestock services can make all the difference to poor livestock keepers struggling

to run more efficient businesses and reduce their own poverty.

These services include veterinary care, grazing lands,

feed grain, reliable water sources, good roads, breeding

technologies and access to financial services. When a

national livestock project in Togo provided small farmers

and herders in 300 rural communities with access to animal

vaccines, for example, the health and productivity of

the livestock improved and incomes increased.

Training and expert advice are also important.

A poultry-improvement project in Pakistan, for instance,

provided women poultry raisers with animal vaccines and

medicines, and training in their use. One year later, flock

size and egg production had increased significantly and

chicken deaths had decreased. Another reason for the

project’s success was that it took into account the particular

needs and problems of the Pakistani women. By considering

the women’s limited financial resources, the organization

managing the project kept operational costs down

and enabled the women to prosper.

Poor people themselves need to be involved in the

development and selection of livestock services. Yet their needs

are often neglected. Living far from big cities and often illiterate,

rural poor people are seldom asked to take part in the

development of policies or the structure of services. To be

effective, livestock services need to address the reality that most

rural poor people lack access to vital resources such as land,

water, markets, credit, health services and education.

One way to ensure that poor people are given a voice in

decision-making is by helping them form official producer

organizations. A project in the Central African Republic

transformed a group of 25 000 regional herders into a national

service organization capable of playing a major role in livestock

development. Cooperatives and self-help groups can strengthen

the competitive position of poor livestock keepers and reduce

poverty in entire communities. Such initiatives need the support

of governments and development organizations. They can be key

to improving livestock services and empowering the rural poor.



Tending to a poverty-free future

All creatures

great and small


More than 150 million livestock

keepers are landless. In South Asia,

the increasing privatization of

common lands is leaving millions of

them without access to grazing lands.

In the next 30 years, developing

countries will need an additional

120 million hectares for food-crop

production in order to feed their

growing populations. This will put

additional pressure on grazing land,

watering points and other resources.

Integrating livestock with crop

production can improve farm

productivity by as much as

100 per cent.

The type of livestock kept by rural

people often depends on their

available resources. In India, for

example, farmers with access to

irrigation are more likely to keep

larger animals, like cattle or water

buffalo, while people without

irrigation tend to keep smaller

animals. Landless people are less likely

to keep any animals, depending on a

daily wage for their survival.

Urbanization and rising incomes are

creating a growing demand for meat

and milk in developing countries,

where about 6.3 million small farmers

are currently delivering milk to

55 000 cooperative societies.

A survey of more than 1 700 livestock

keepers in Bolivia, India and Kenya

found that lack of access to feed and

water was their most serious problem.

Livestock diseases posed the most

significant problem for 20 per cent

of those surveyed.

In Bangladesh, where an estimated

8 million rural poor families

participate in microcredit

programmes, about 20 per cent

of the loans are invested in livestock.

Who are livestock keepers? The rancher in Guatemala with a

herd of cattle, the farmer in Bangladesh raising three chickens,

the villager in the mountains of eastern Morocco keeping a

single hive of bees. All hold livestock and all have a role to play

in reducing poverty.

For poor people, there are many

benefits from keeping livestock –

from the largest water buffalo to the

smallest insect.

Livestock are a form of currency.

For many people, animals represent

savings. The sale of livestock and manure

can mean quick cash in hard times.

Income from livestock and their many

products – milk, eggs, meat, wool,

leather, honey – can allow poor families

to put food on the table, improve their

nutrition, send their children to school

and purchase medicine for themselves

and their animals.

Livestock also act as a kind of social

glue. Loans and gifts of livestock connect

people to other family members, as well

as to communities and institutions. In

many societies, bride dowries are paid

in livestock. Herders who share livestock

with their relatives also share the risks

brought by drought and disease.

Livestock are used to resolve conflicts,

pay debts and settle scores. A family’s

place in society is often measured by the

amount and kind of livestock it owns.

When women own livestock, their social

status can be improved, empowering

them to participate in decision-making.

Livestock serve a practical function,

too. They carry heavy loads, help

plough fields and provide means of

transportation. Their manure fertilizes

the soil. Most livestock graze on straw,

grass, kitchen scraps and other waste,

and thus convert unusable materials

into high-quality food for humans. Their

meat adds protein to cereal-based diets

and can improve the nutrition of children.

The presence of livestock reduces the

need for human labour in the fields.

Even the smallest animals can

contribute to poverty reduction. Although

enterprises involving micro-livestock,

such as guinea pigs, silkworms, snails,

honeybees and rabbits, have lower

profits, they also have lower initial costs

and carry less risk. Raising small animals

is often a stepping stone to more

profitable enterprises. And small

livestock, which tend to live closer

to the homestead, are especially

important for women, who may need

to stay near home to care for children.

Yet, when it comes to keeping

livestock, poverty is relative. A family’s

poverty is not determined by the number

or size of livestock it owns but by wider

social, geographic and economic factors.

For instance, a farmer with ten goats

might be well off in one part of the

world, yet poor in another area where

natural disasters and other factors make

raising goats more difficult. On the

whole, livestock keepers are considered

poor when their animals do not help

them meet their basic subsistence needs.

In many regions of the world, poor

people depend on livestock to earn

money and yet cannot afford to eat

the meat they produce. When the poor

have access to grazing lands, it is often

sparsely populated dryland, which makes

raising animals difficult and prohibitively

expensive. Larger livestock, such as cattle,

water buffalo and camels, can produce

more readily traded products than smaller

animals, and thus generate more income.

But poor farmers can rarely afford to

own such animals.

Some livestock graze on unwanted

materials and so perform a recycling

function, which can help improve the

environment. However, lack of animal

feed and insufficient land often force

poor farmers to overgraze their larger

livestock, damaging the environment

as a result.

Livestock are a form of currency.

For many people, animals

represent savings. The sale of

livestock and manure can mean

quick cash in hard times.

The impact of globalization

Over the past 20 years, globalization has hit the world’s agricultural sector and opened

up its markets to an unprecedented degree.

At the same time, there has been a growing demand for

meat and milk in many developing countries. Together, these

developments present both significant opportunities and risks

for the millions of poor people who keep livestock.

Critics warn that the opportunities of globalization have been

unevenly distributed and can work against developing countries.

Poor livestock keepers, for instance, usually cannot afford to meet

the sanitation standards required to trade globally and find it

increasingly difficult to compete at home when cheap export

products are introduced to local markets. Increased meat and milk

production and the processing they require to meet the demands

of the global marketplace can have a significant impact on

natural resources. The more land is needed for livestock, the more

nutrients are taken from the soil, the more deforestation occurs,

the more wildlife preserves are threatened and the more waste

and gas emissions are produced.

Poor livestock keepers can benefit from globalization, but only

when they are equipped to compete in the marketplace. To keep

up with the growing demand for milk and meat, they need

disease-control measures to make sure their animals stay healthy,

passable roads to get to markets and access to financial services

that will support their enterprises. To be able to comply with

stricter food-safety regulations, they need access to refrigeration,

and facilities for food processing and storage. With the right

tools, organization and training, and with adequate investment

for long-term economic growth, poor livestock keepers will be

in a better position to tackle the risks of globalization and seize

its opportunities.

Livestock and


Today, the vast majority of the world’s estimated

40 million people living with HIV/AIDS reside

in developing countries.

Poverty puts people at significantly higher risk for HIV infection

and aggravates the disease’s impact in a variety of ways. When

families are hit by HIV/AIDS, it can worsen their poverty. Labour

and time are lost and incomes are reduced. Knowledge normally

transferred from one generation to the next is lost when parents

die before their children are old enough to farm.

Owning livestock can help families cope with some of the

devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. Livestock can be sold to help meet

extra costs for food, medical care and funerals. Larger animals,

such as cattle and water buffalo, can provide necessary labour

and save the strength of ill family members.

But traditional inheritance customs and discriminatory policies

can deprive people affected by HIV/AIDS of their livestock. Women

and children who lose their husbands or parents to the disease can

suffer a double loss when inheritance laws take the household’s

livestock away as well. Poor families affected by HIV/AIDS are often

denied access to small loans and forced to sell their animals, losing

perhaps their only form of savings.

Livestock services and technologies must take households

affected by HIV/AIDS into consideration if they are to serve and

protect society’s most vulnerable people.

Women livestock keepers: unique

knowledge and special needs

Women produce as much as 80 per cent of the food in most developing

countries. Men’s participation in agriculture, on the other hand, has been

declining in recent years. War and disease have reduced male populations in

rural areas. And men often migrate to towns and cities in search of work.


Ahmed E. Sidahmed

Technical adviser and focal point

Livestock and Rangeland Systems

Technical Advisory Division, IFAD

Via del Serafico 107

00142 Rome, Italy

Telephone: (39) 0654592455

Fax: (39) 065043463



Agrodev Canada

Centre for Research on Globalization

Centre for the Study of Sustainable

Agricultural and Livestock

Production Systems

Consultative Group on International

Agricultural Research


Food and Agriculture Organization

of the United Nations

Global Livestock (CRSP)

International Centre for Agricultural

Research in Dry Areas

International Food Policy Research Institute

International Livestock Research Institute

Livestock System Group,

University of Reading

World Food Programme

Contact information

International Fund for Agricultural Development

Via Serafico, 107 – 00142 Rome, Italy

Tel.: +39 06 54591

Fax: +39 06 5043463


Women farmers often possess unique knowledge of livestock and tend to shoulder

the primary responsibility for animal care. However, women’s roles in livestock keeping

often depend on regional traditions and taboos. In some cultures, women raise large

animals, in others, they do not work with livestock at all. Some women only process

livestock products or clean the animals’ stalls. Others care for small animals kept near

home, such as goats or chickens. Sometimes a woman’s access to livestock is limited

to her family ties. She might borrow her husband’s donkey to carry water, or use

the milk from his cow to feed her children.

Women livestock keepers also have to struggle with formidable economic

constraints. Women inherit fewer animals than their male relatives, and when they

do own livestock, it is often in name only, and husbands, brothers or sons tend to

control livestock sales and profits. Without collateral, women are often denied credit

and are forced to rely on exploitative village moneylenders.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has only made matters worse. A woman widowed by AIDS

must often sit by while male relatives step in to claim her deceased husband’s property,

including his livestock. Even when a widow is able to keep her husband’s livestock,

she often finds herself cut off from the financial and agricultural services that were

once available to him.

Development projects can help women become livestock owners and protect their

access to vital services and resources. But much more needs to be done to ensure that

women have the tools they need to be successful livestock keepers. Women in

developing countries are more likely than men to spend the money they earn on their

families’ needs, including school fees, medical care and food for their children. A study

in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Indonesia and South Africa, found that when women in poor

households had control over money and assets, their children were more likely to

be clothed and educated and their girls healthier. Another study found that children

in poor households headed by women had better nutrition than those in poor

households headed by men.

Given the importance of women in agriculture and the vital roles they play in

meeting their families’ needs, particular attention must be given to supporting them

as livestock keepers.

Working together

By working together, about 10 000 herder families sharing common grazing lands in eastern

Morocco have been able to rehabilitate severely degraded rangelands.

Through a USD 47.7 million livestock and pasture development project, sheep herders in the

country’s most important pastoral region formed 44 pastoral cooperatives, which introduced new

rangeland management practices while respecting tribal structures and preserving traditions.

Drought and overgrazing had severely damaged the rangelands. Herds were decimated and

incomes had fallen dramatically. The herders needed to work together if local herding practices

were to change and disaster averted. Through the cooperatives, new practices were introduced,

including range control and respect for use rights. Nearly 14 500 hectares of fodder shrubs were

planted, 60 watering points were repaired or installed, and annual health care was provided for

nearly 900 000 sheep and goats. The introduction of a coordinated grazing rotation system, which

included bans on grazing in certain areas and the fencing of 461 000 hectares of rangeland,

led to increased fodder production and allowed better control of the use of pasture lands.

Despite five years of drought from 1997 to 2001, more than 460 000 hectares of rangeland

were rehabilitated.

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