The agricultural sector in developing countries is in an era of rapid social, economic technological and ecological change, making predicting the future difficult. It is against these dynamic rural development scenarios that over half the world’s approximately 1.4 billion ‘extreme poor’ (<$1.25/day) live and work. Of these, a majority depend for their livelihoods on farming or supplying farm labour. Agricultural growth and development, therefore, are essential pre-conditions for the relief of rural poverty. Livestock are a key component of agriculture and can significantly promote passage out of poverty in agrarian, developing country settings. Possession of animals has been shown to signify important place-markers in households’ trajectories upward out of poverty; livestock can represent both a store of wealth and an investment that can lead to higher incomes through increases in agricultural productivity and diversification of income sources.
The Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PPLPI) was launched in 2001 by the Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with financial support provided by the United Kingdom Government’s Department for International Development (DFID), with the specific purpose to:
‘Strengthen capacity in FAO, member nations and international organisations to formulate livestock sector and related policies and implementation plans that reduce poverty, whilst managing environmental and public health risks’.
Livestock farming tends to be shaped by national and international policy and institutional frameworks that are rarely pro-poor. PPLPI’s main objective was to explore ways and means to facilitate and support the formulation and implementation of policies and institutional changes that would have a positive impact on the livelihoods of a large number of livestock-dependent poor people. The initiative’s livestock focus reflected the fact that livestock contribute to the livelihoods of an estimated 70% of the world’s rural poor and that the rapid increase in demand for livestock products in developing countries in conjunction with the growing integration of global markets provided both new opportunities and threats to the livelihoods of poor and small-scale livestock producers, traders, and processors.