The involvement of women in livestock production is a long-standing tradition all over the world, in Europe as well as in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Livestock patterns differ widely among ecological zones, and socio-political systems. Livestock production systems can be divided in four major categories (Niamir, 1994): Nomads or transhumants, agropastoralist, intensive crops and livestock, and peri-urban intensive systems. In addition, there are some not-so-obvious livestock systems. In developing countries, the majority of livestock raisers are agropastoralists, deriving their incomes from both livestock and crop production. Agropastoral systems refer to a wide range of production systems, from the semi-nomadic to the sedentary. The difference between agropastoral and intensive crop and livestock systems is that the former consists of larger herds and usually relies on some kind of communal pastures or rangelands. Agropastoral societies in Africa have in general more total numbers of livestock than in transhumant ones, but the livestock ownership per capita is higher among transhumants. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. Intensive crop and livestock systems are more popular as land shortages force agropastoralists to intensify their production. Such systems have fewer animals per household than other categories, and often rely on fodder production or crop residues and by-products. In Asia, where often land shortages are severe, there are fewer transhumant and agropastoral systems. The typical livestock production system is a smallholding integrated intensive crop-livestock farm ("backyard" system).
It is difficult to generalise about the typical role of women within a livestock production system, as it differs even on a regional basis. In transhumant systems in Africa for example, herding and management responsibilities for large stock (cattle or camels) are rarely assigned to women. But that is not the case in transhumant systems in the Andes of Latin America. In many societies women are responsible for small stock such as goats, sheep and poultry, as well as for young and sick animals kept at the homestead. They are mostly involved in milk production, although not all women control the sale of milk and its products. Involvement in this task is not necessarily the women's choice, but provides an opportunity to obtain some additional income within the given circumstances.
In the last decade, gender balanced programmes and projects have become an important goal for many development agencies. Participatory methods, involving both women and men, are an important tool for success. But project content and approach have to be well defined that efforts in gender related issues will have a sustainable impact and the contribution of women in the sector are not trivialised.
This report aims to provide an overview of the experiences made by integrating gender aspects in livestock projects. Due to differences in society structure, cultures and livestock production systems, generalisation is quite difficult. Nevertheless, key points, risks and best practises are presented. For project designers and for project monitoring some indication of the required information and possible indicators needed to facilitate such a task are given.