The growing demand for livestock
Will policy and institutional changes benefit poor people?
Will policy and institutional changes benefit poor people?
As global demand for meat and milk increases, many policies focus on promoting international trade in livestock and livestock products. How does this affect the community-based livestock services that poor people use, and who will benefit from the expanding global markets?
In all developing countries, people live side by side with livestock. Animals are reared in nearly all ecosystems, from arid high-mountain zones to low-lying deserts. People benefit from livestock in many ways:
- Livestock are used for food, income and draught power. Their skins are used for housing, clothing and household utensils and their dung is used for fuel and manure.
- Livestock often provide a substantial proportion of household wealth; they are the key asset in many dryland environments.
- For poor families with just a few chickens or goats, livestock-derived foods (such as eggs and milk) are an important source of nutrition, especially for children and mothers.
The 2008 World Development Report on Agriculture surveyed 14 countries and noted that most rural households, and 40 percent of the poorest households, own livestock. The World Bank estimates that livestock are the main livelihood asset for up to 200 million pastoralists and agropastoralists in arid and semi-arid environments worldwide. Furthermore, 35 to 90 million of these people are extremely poor.
Policy and institutional changes in the livestock sector, and the growing demand for meat, milk and other livestock products, will affect poor livestock producers in many ways. This issue of insights examines some of the implications and suggests how the livestock sector can focus on 'pro-poor' development.
The last twenty years have seen some important successes and promising trends in livestock development. For example, many developing country governments increasingly accept private veterinary 'para-professionals' (people with some level of college-based veterinary training) as appropriate for delivering basic animal healthcare services. Community-based workers are also officially sanctioned in some countries, meaning more people can access some level of animal healthcare.
Efforts to clarify international standards for livestock trade, for example sanitary standards, and make them more 'user-friendly' are also progressing. This may enable developing regions to export more livestock and livestock products – to developed countries and other developing regions – without risking human or animal health.
Animal health services
Despite these successes, several challenges remain. Jeannette Gurung and Kanchan Lama argue that women must play a greater role in livestock management and own animals, rather than just provide labour to look after them. Many current debates focus on how marketing and trade issues affect the livestock sector at many levels. David Leonard and Cheikh Ly discuss how to improve the provision of veterinary services at the community level. Alastair Bradstock looks at how non-governmental organisations can support communities dependent on livestock. Both articles note the important policy and legislation changes that enable the wider use of para-professionals, working under the supervision of professional veterinarians.
From a trade perspective, improving animal health standards is important for two reasons. First, the high number of livestock deaths in marginal areas could be reduced by basic, private veterinary services, such as delivering vaccines and drugs. Research shows that many livestock keepers recognise the benefits and will pay for these services. In areas where trade is limited by market supply problems (meaning too few animals for sale), more animals means more trade. This may be particularly important for poorer livestock keepers, as additional animals can be traded in local markets and do not need to be exported.
Second, international trade is based on trust between trading partners. Trust is enhanced when an exporting country can demonstrate a strong national livestock disease surveillance system. Para-professionals can play a key role in such systems. However, as Leonard and Ly point out, governments in developing countries have been slow to contract private professionals to carry out these tasks. This remains a major challenge.
Assessing animal disease risks
There are currently academic debates about whether pastoralism is still a viable livelihood option in the Horn of Africa. Ian Scoones suggests greater commercialisation of herds is one way to strengthen pastoralist livelihoods. This seems logical, as there is a growing demand for milk and meat in the expanding urban centres of countries with pastoralist populations, as well as other countries.
However, policymakers often regard pastoralist areas as problematic, where many animals have serious diseases. This perception means that current international standards prevent trade with pastoral areas. These standards are based on the assumption that eradicating diseases from a given area or country is the only way to guarantee livestock products as safe for trade. But is this assumption correct?
Ahmadu Babagana and Tim Leyland make several objections to the view that disease eradication is necessary to ensure the safe trade of livestock or livestock products. The authors argue that international standards should place greater emphasis on the risk analysis of specific livestock products and commodities, which will complement disease eradication.
These commodity-based standards require livestock products to be processed in a way that greatly reduces the risk of these products containing disease agents. This process is already starting in some regions; in 2006, six private abattoirs in Somalia exported 600,000 chilled livestock carcasses to the Gulf States. The World Organisation for Animal Health (l'Organisation Mondiale de la Santé Animale, or OIE) also now acknowledges the need to revise international standards and provide better guidance on commodity-based trade.
The rising demand for livestock products
In terms of pro-poor development, the livestock sector faces similar challenges to other agricultural sectors. Markets are expanding, and some international standards are becoming more achievable, but how can poorer producers gain access to these markets?
Recent models predict dramatic increases in meat and milk consumption and prices, suggesting that a huge market is waiting to be supplied. Mark Rosegrant and Philip Thornton outline some opportunities and threats facing poorer livestock producers. They warn that livestock production systems are likely to exclude poorer producers and higher cereal prices will impact negatively upon all poor people. Although there is growing recognition of the need to promote poor livestock producers in international trade, there are few examples to date of how to make this happen.
In his article examining a recent commercial destocking project in southern Ethiopia, Adrian Cullis explains how investments by private export traders during drought periods led to substantial benefits for pastoralists. However, the export markets were fragile and later collapsed due to weak government veterinary services. This example offers a glimpse of what might be possible in the long term if governments can encourage appropriate involvement from the private sector.
In areas affected by repeated droughts, donors and United Nations agencies are beginning to understand the benefits of more livelihoods-based livestock programming. This includes a shift towards long-term development approaches in which drought is predicted and planned for, rather than being regarded as an unexpected 'shock'. This move towards livelihoods-based analysis and programming is particularly important in dryland areas and as a response to climate change.
Currently, some policymakers recognise the need to promote the participation of poorer livestock producers in international trade. However, there are few examples of how to make this happen. The key is to improve government policies, including an increased commitment to poor livestock producers. The articles in this issue of insights suggest some of the policy changes within the livestock sector that will help the poorest people benefit from the predicted expansion in the sector.
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