Globally, agriculture provides a livelihood
for more people than any other industry. Agriculture has a
key role in reducing poverty since most of the world’s
poor live in rural areas and are largely dependent on agriculture,
while food prices determine the cost-of-living for both rural
and urban poor. However, at current levels of assistance to
agriculture the global objective of halving poverty levels
by 2015 is unlikely to be reached.
Livestock provide over half of the value of global agricultural
output and one third in developing countries. They contribute
to rural livelihoods, employment and poverty relief. Livestock
integrate with and complement crop-production, embody savings
and provide a reserve against risks. Rapid growth in demand
for livestock products, in the developing countries, is viewed
as a "food revolution". But, as local production
cannot keep pace, growth in consumption of livestock products
in developing countries occurs at the expense of increasing
The case for promoting increased livestock production is
pressing given the rapidly growing demand for animal products
in conjunction with the global aim to halve, by 2015, the
proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty,
most of whom are dependent, at least in part, on food and
income derived from livestock. Benefits from livestock development
will in particular accrue to the landless and rural women.
Meeting the needs for promoting livestock production "while,
at the same time sustaining the natural resource base (soil,
water, air and bio-diversity), is one of the major challenges
facing world agriculture today" (Bruinsma 2003).
What Policies to Pursue?
Policy instruments fall into three main groups: (a) price
policies, (b) institutional policies, and (c) policies promoting
technological change. Price policies are the responsibility
of national governments, although they may be influenced by
international agencies, such as customs unions, the World
Bank or the WTO. However, institutional and technological
changes are introduced not only by national and local governments
but also by private individuals or associations, development
agencies and Non-Government Organisations
Price policies can be categorized into (i) trade policy,
(ii) exchange rate policy, (iii) tax and subsidy policy, and
(iv) direct interventions such as floor and fixed prices.
Trade policy, from a developing country’s perspective,
should include continued pressure, through international fora
such as the WTO, on developed countries to reduce tariffs
and other barriers aimed at supporting their own producers.
However, greater benefits might be achieved by reducing levels
of protection for industrial sectors within the developing
countries, as such protection raises input costs and effectively
taxes agricultural producers. Taxes, subsidies and governments’
direct market interventions have usually failed to bring lasting
benefits. There remains a case for limited use of subsidies
for disaster relief and to promote the use of new inputs,
such as vaccines or drugs. Alternatively moderate taxes on
livestock producers might be used to recover costs of providing
public goods such as disease control or eradication programmes.
Policies for the promotion of appro-priate institutions have
a major impact on livestock development. The authors of a
review of about 800 livestock development projects found that
most had failed to bring about significant sustainable improvements
in livelihoods of the poor. They conclude that “The
key lesson to emerge from our review… is the importance
of institutions in defining the success of pro-poor measures.”(LID
1999). Benefits would accrue to livestock producers, as to
all members of society, if along with improvements to the
physical infrastructure the institutional infrastructure of
law and order, respect for property rights and contractual
agreements were strengthened.
Institutional development is also needed for the provision
of credit, animal health services and genetic material. The
introduction of new technology must be accompanied by the
strengthening of the institutional framework required for
its implementation. The other key area, where institutional
change is essential for the success of livestock development,
is that of marketing, including transport, processing and
selling. As marketing activities exhibit economies of scale,
large commercial operations are most likely to be cost-effective.
Unfortunately, in negotiating contracts with such companies,
small-scale producers are in a weak position, lacking market
power and information on patterns of supply, demand and prices.
Thus in promoting institutional development, there is a need
for dissemination of market information, and encouragement
of co-operative group action and participation by small-scale
producers to strengthen their bargaining position.
Technological change may be promoted by supporting research
and development and the dissemination of information to farmers.
Public funding for agricultural research, and particularly
for livestock research, has declined over recent decades.
Since much research output provides public goods it is unlikely
to receive adequate funding from the private sector. The decline
in public sector funding should therefore be reversed. An
appropriate institutional framework must be developed to integrate
a farmer participatory systems approach with science-based
adaptive and applied research, depending on collaboration
between producers, and natural and social scientists. The
national research organisations must take responsibility for
research prioritisation, ensuring that it is appropriate for
relative resource availability, taking into account the needs
of the poor, and co-ordinating donor assistance.
Areas of research deserving attention include animal and
veterinary public health measures, improvements in forage
crops and utilisation of crop by-products, and improvements
in husbandry and management of production systems. Local breed
improvement is a slow process and increases in production
are generally more easily achieved by cross-breeding with,
or adopting, exotic breeds. Technical research has to be complemented
by socio-economic research into the institutional framework
for the allocation of natural resources, credit, and labour
hire, the delivery of inputs and the processing and marketing
of livestock products. Research is needed to describe and
analyse the strengths and weaknesses of existing institutions
and to propose and test alternatives for improvement. In addition,
socio-economists are needed to contribute to the research
prioritisation process, by assessing likely costs and benefits
of proposed research projects.
What Could the Benefits Be?
The primary benefit from increases in livestock productivity
is a sustainable improvement in the livelihoods of livestock
producers, many of whom are resource poor, many of these being
women and some of whom are landless. Some of the benefits
will be reflected in improved levels of nutrition, while increases
in market sales will provide income for other uses. Increases
in domestic production and supply of livestock products may
result in falling prices. These will benefit consumers and
accelerate the growth in demand. However, the fall in price
is unlikely to be large enough to cancel out the benefits
to producers of the increases in productivity. The main effect
for most developing countries will be the substitution of
domestic products for imports. This effect will bring additional
benefits by saving scarce foreign exchange. Improvements in
animal and veterinary public health not only save farm costs
and increase productivity and incomes, but also reduce risks
of losses and of human disease and, for countries producing
more than enough for domestic consumption, also improve access
to world markets.