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Poor livestock producers have little influence on national policies because their political participation tends to be mediated through patron-client ties. Consequently, poor producers most often trade their collective interests for very modest individual benefits. These patron-client networks are now being extended internationally, generally making them still less advantageous. Eventually poor livestock producers should address their interests through political associations rather than clientage. In the meantime, however, without outside help, they are unlikely to engage in effective proactive political action on issues related to their collective interests as producers.

Given the general weakness of poor farmers in their political systems, progressive policy reform at the national level depends on identifying elite allies whose interests correspond with those of poor livestock producers. The possibilities of building pro-poor alliances are likely to vary by level and function of government. Different societal groups will be dominant in different political arenas and thus there will be differences between geographical units as to whose interests are best served.

The ever-widening impact of neo-liberalism on public policy presents problems for pro-poor initiatives, but offers opportunities as well. Interventions to improve the efficiency of markets fit will fit well with neo-liberal theories and are therefore more likely to attract donor support. By no means do these policies always benefit the poor, but when they can be shaped to do so, it makes political sense to steer within, rather than paddle against the current of donor opinion.

Prevailing trends towards decentralization offer the potential to adapt policies to highly variable conditions, but are by no means always advantageous to the poor. Much will depend on what interests dominate the local political systems.

The activities carried out by the Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PPLPI) under the ‘Political Economy’ theme focus specifically on elucidating:

the roles and interests of key organizations and players in livestock sector and related policy making, internal and external factors and forces, and the political and institutional processes that lie behind such policy making;
the influence that specific international processes have on the political economy of livestock sector policy making; and
suitable entry points to effectively influence livestock sector and related policy making.

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