Subregional Office


 for Eastern Africa (SFE)



Assessing the challenges and opportunities of informal cross boarder livestock trade in the Horn of Africa

Addis Ababa, 2 August 2012: Experts from federal and regional Government authorities in Ethiopia, private sector, FAO, development and resource partners, today met to discuss and validate the findings of a policy brief on Informal trade in livestock across the borders of Ethiopia and Somalia. The brief was developed by FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa and is the result of an extensive assessment of the informal livestock trade feeding the Berbera and Bosasso corridors. Informal crossborder trade is a movement of goods across national borders, in which, all or part of the trading activity is unrecorded or unrecognized by governments and does not adhere to procedural requirements of all formal institutions  

Vibrant unrecorded exchange

Speaking on behalf of Dr. Castro Camarada, the FAO Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa, Ms. Emmanuelle GuerneBleich, pointed out the massive contribution this informal trade played in the reducing vulnerability of the agropastoralist communities in the horn. “The cross border livestock trade operation in the horn of Africa is considered to be one of the largest live animal export movements in the world. Informal trade forms a significant part of this exchange and contributes significantly to the income of the community and ultimately supplement the national economies”.The cross border movement of livestock and other commodities along Ethiopia’s national frontier, has long survived against political rivalry, armed conflicts, regional insecurity, border closures, livestock export trade bans, and other restrictive government directives. Dr Solomon Desta, a researcher with Managing Risk for Improved Livelihoods in Ethiopia (MARIL) explained some of the findings. “According to several sources including the livestock marketing cooperatives, 70 percent of cattle, 30 percent of camel and 99 percent of sheep and goat are traded unofficially. If this is the case, you will find that in the fiscal year 2010/11 the value of this informal trade came close to USD 184 million”.  

Communities’ lifeline

Despite the enormous volumes of unofficial livestock trade between the pastoralists of Ethiopia and Somali boarders, there is limited understanding about its contributions to the food security and economic growth of the region. The sector has received inadequate attention in national strategic plans and regional development programming and much more needs to be done. “Crossborder livestock trade is a critical source of livelihood for millions of inhabitants in the Horn of Africa. The indirect multiplier effects of linkages with other income generating activities such as merchandize trade, service industry, transport sector as well as the direct job creation in the livestock marketing channel makes it a lifeline for the region”, Dr Desta concluded”.This assessment is part of an on going series of studies covering Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda and South Sudan and is being supported by the European Union. FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa is coordinating assessments as part of a larger regional initiative to support of vulnerable pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in the Horn of Africa. The aim of this assessment is to enhance a better understanding of the informal cross-border livestock trade and to recommend policy options that will facilitate and mainstream the trade without jeopardizing pastoral and agro-pastoral livelihoods as well as public revenue.

Complete Policy Brief