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Chapter 2

Stakeholders, systems and issues in urban livestock keeping

There is a wide variety of forms and functions among urban livestock systems, and a high degree of cohesion between these systems and the outside world. Such variation and interrelation imply a need to establish who the major stakeholders are, what the major types of livestock systems are and what problems such as zoonoses, food hygiene, smell and dung effluent they face, before going on to list management approaches, technologies and policies for coping with them.


Among the stakeholders in urban livestock systems are the shantytown women and children who make a living by, among other activities, feeding their food wastes to rabbits, guinea pigs or poultry. Other stakeholders are government officials, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, leaders of dairy cooperatives, feed and medicine merchants, retailers and wealthy consumers. Examples of various urban livestock activities and the occupational groups of the people involved are given in Table 3.

The differences among stakeholders imply different interests and perceptions regarding urban livestock. Government officials may know little or nothing about the socio-economic and technical aspects of animal production but they can be zealous in protecting their own private interests. Entrepreneurs may be retired or active government employees, their wives, single women or unemployed casual labourers; they may be schoolchildren or industrialists who know how to make good use of government subsidies and tax laws. Combined with the different forms of urban livestock, the result is a wide range of different ways of perceiving problems and opportunities in urban livestock; and some form of categorization is required to cope with this variation.


Non-agricultural and agriculture-related occupations of poultry producers in the United Republic of Tanzania





















Professional/office employee










Military/government employee





Other occupation










Keeps dairy cows





Sells livestock products





Operates feed/maize mill










Involved in veterinary or agricultural extension work





Keeps small livestock





Other agricultural occupation










Note: Some producers gave more than one response.

Source: Sumberg (1996a).

For instance, all those people who own a bullock cart could be regarded as representing one group; other groups could be all those who own two, or three or more dairy cows. Such people depend on their livestock for at least part of their and their families' livelihoods, and they will be reluctant to give up this source. The same is true of single parents who are raising extra income, improving their children's diets or earning money for school expenses by keeping animals, which also help to dispose of kitchen waste or by-products from the local industry (Photos 2 and 3). However, not everybody within the same level of urban society shares the same positive view of urban livestock keeping. For example, a livestock keeper may live next door to the mother of a child who comes home with clothes dirtied by animal excreta, or there may be a neighbour who gets angry about goats causing havoc in his vegetable plot.

A second category of people consists of local legislators and civil servants. Their main concerns are about disputes in their neighbourhoods, or about raising some extra money by fining people for breaking the law. Many administrators regard urban livestock keeping as a sign of backwardness, but there are exceptions. For example, much of the urban dairy business of Dar-es-Salaam in the United Republic of Tanzania is carried out by the city's civil servants as a sideline. In some places there is a strong relationship between local legislation and the large businesses that are engaged in intensive, industrial systems, but these are not the main focus of this report.

A third category of stakeholders in urban livestock are those administrators, and often academics, who are professionally geared to see only one aspect of what ever it is they are looking at. For example, people who work in the public health office will be concerned only about public health; tax collectors will worry only about tax (and fee) collecting; those in charge of urban housing will concentrate on construction plans and ignore the animals; and veterinarians will be interested in zoonoses and private practice opportunities. This description may be somewhat exaggerated but it does characterize the ways in which many employees of government offices tend to function. A health official cannot compromise on public health even when animals represent an essential form of income that helps local people to survive; a tax-collector cannot tolerate informal arrangements that are difficult to administer, even when they form an essential part of local livelihoods. Reports from such sector departments and/or discipline-oriented professionals are very likely to emphasize problems in whatever area they are regulating or studying. The identification of creative and holistic solutions is not part of their mandate, nor have they been trained to do so. One possible way of improving livestock systems, therefore, lies in the (re-)training of government officials to use their rules to help strengthen the positive aspects of urban livestock while overcoming the negative ones.


A small-scale piggery in Hanoi (Viet Nam) where pigs are used to convert waste from cassava-based starch manufacture


A goat in Khartoum (the Sudan) utilizing urban and household waste

A fourth category of stakeholders in urban agriculture is that of the national and international planners and policy-makers who are concerned with the production of sufficient food, of plant and animal origin, to ensure that people get enough to eat. These people tend to emphasize the fact that urban livestock and agriculture produce only a fraction of the dietary food requirements for an urban population, and they rightly concede that urban livestock and crops can never produce enough. A combination of the possible pollution and health risks of keeping animals in close proximity to people and the competition with other sectors (for space and resources), leads planners and policy- makers to suggest that the production of food from animal origin is better shifted to larger specialized units outside the city. As with the discipline- and sector-oriented people, these people also tend to overlook the fact that urban livestock can fulfil many roles besides producing milk or eggs, and that a small contribution to food security can make a lot of difference at the family level. Among planners and policy-makers it would be beneficial to increase awareness about the essential roles that animals can play in the economy, sociology and ecology of cities.

A fifth but very relevant category cuts across all the others. This categorization distinguishes between, on one hand, so-called "linear" thinkers who are interested in only one aspect, e.g. food production and, on the other hand, "non-linear" thinkers who consider several aspects and interests to reach holistic approaches to the issue. The two lines of thought should supplement each other, but in practice they tend to run counter to each other. Successful action is often the result of local creative initiative rather than general across-the-board legislation. The distinction between linear and non-linear is real but vague; in this publication such a distinction facilitates an understanding of the technological issues that exist in the complex systems involved in urban agriculture. In essence, these issues arise in any complex system, whether urban livestock, mixed farming or manufacture/supply chains. The unique aspect of urban livestock systems is that they present a microcosm of livestock systems in general, by relating to pigs, cows, draught animals, pets, milk, social and biophysical functions, etc. Because urban livestock systems include the direct involvement of such a wide variety of stakeholders, they provide a unique example of working with complexity and a good opportunity to learn about similar aspects of agriculture in general (FAO, 2000).


General issues

A working definition of an urban livestock system was given in Chapter 1, but urban livestock systems can be defined in many different ways and at many different levels. A global-level classification, which may be useful for organizations such as FAO, may be completely irrelevant for interventions at the city or suburb level. At that level, for example, a distinction may be made between monogastric and ruminant systems (pigs, chickens and ducks versus cows, buffaloes and goats or sheep), but that may, in turn, be irrelevant when two neighbours quarrel about their respective systems being a public nuisance or an asset. Participation of local stakeholders is indispensable to choose relevant criteria and discard irrelevant ones. However, the major patterns that occur in urban livestock systems seem to follow a set of classification criteria based on differences among cities, population densities and histories, local stakeholders, animal species, etc. The descriptions and classifications shown in Table 4 are not exhaustive, they only show the variation in approaches to defining urban livestock systems.


Descriptions and characteristics of urban livestock systems, a random choice from the literature

Peri-urban producers have grazing land, located mainly on the outskirts of the town.

The urban interface is characterized by strong urban influences; easy access to markets, services and other inputs; ready supplies of labour; but relative shortage of land and risks from pollution and urban growth.

Peri-urban livestock zones [of Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania] exhibit both urban and rural characteristics, ... over a zone ... between the high-density, urban city centre (i.e. within a radius of 20 km) and the low-density, rural areas beyond a 40 to 50 km radius.

Most of the people in cities and peri-urban areas practise urban agriculture because it provides food for them; for income generation or poverty alleviation (because of the proximity to the market); for waste management (i.e. people take manure from the cattle barn or poultry house and send it to the farm); as a means of converting by-products (e.g. brewers' spent grain, bran, seed cakes, low-quality roughage) into high-quality proteins/food (milk, meat and eggs).

The (peri)-urban livestock system of Mexico City is located in an urban conglomerate that lies about 2 000 m above sea level, covers an area of 1 400 km2 and has a population of 22 million people.

Peri-urban Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic) is defined ... as the area surrounding Damascus within 30 to 50 km.... The total area is about 1 605 543 ha

(8.6 percent of the Syrian Arab Republic's total area). According to land use, the study area is divided as follows ...: cultivable land: 147 276 ha (9.17 percent); uncultivable land: 221 644 ha (14 percent) which includes buildings, public roads, rivers, lakes, rocky and sandy lands, steppe and pastures and accounts for 75 percent of the study area; forests: the study area is considered as very poor in forests, which do not exceed 2 percent of its total area; ... The study area has the following characteristics: small cultivable land and small agricultural holdings; population expansion that is basically at the expense of cultivable land; huge population with high population growth rate particularly in the countryside around Damascus; available rivers and well water, particularly in districts near Damascus city; a moderate climate throughout the year which allows intensive agriculture; huge animal numbers and intensive livestock production; cattle farming by smallholders; and poultry farming on large farms.

Source: Summarized from Schiere (FAO, 2000) based on work by Sumberg (1996a, 1997), FAO (1998f) and MAAR/FAO/GTZ (1997).

History and development of urban livestock systems

All cities differ from one another in size, development history, sociology and structure. Mexico City has a popu lation of around 22 million people, while Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire) and Dar-es-Salaam (United Republic of Tanzania) count about 2 and 3 million people, respect ively. When thinking in terms of future developments in opportunities for urban livestock, distinctions can also be made between cities that have grown in blanket form (Figure 1a) and cities that were planned according to the concept of satellite towns (Figure 1b). Obviously, a range of intermediate forms exists between blanket and satellite patterns, and practice does not always follow planning. Some cities opt for decentralized planning or laissez faire, others for centralized planning, and still others seem to have developed without any clear plans at all. Singapore is a typical case of a city with strong legislative measures, but in other cities hardly any effect is expected from legislation other than an increase in bribery. Keeping dairy cows may be impossible in the heart of modern Mumbai (India), Tokyo (Japan) or Amsterdam (the Netherlands); but rabbits, chickens and other small (pet) animals are commonly kept on balconies and in backyards everywhere. Even the keeping of dairy cows and/or goats can be quite acceptable in urban areas with much green, or where there are a lot of by-products from agro-industries. In the nineteenth century, urban dairies were quite important in areas around beer breweries in Copenhagen (Denmark) and around distilleries in major United States cities, while today they still supply a good income in Dar-es-Salaam, particularly to civil servants (Table 3).

This publication suggests that the possibilities for urban livestock should be distinguished according to a classification of cities into categories such as growing but diverse megalopolises (Mexico and Karachi [Pakistan]), stone/brick/concrete cities (Mumbai, Jakarta [Indonesia], Bangkok [Thailand] and Lima [Peru]) and garden cities (generally but not exclusively the fringes of cities such as in Dar-es-Salaam and Nairobi [Kenya]).

Another potential criterion for distinguishing among urban livestock systems is in their origins. A system may emerge through:

The terms "organic emergence", "induced development", "overgrown farming" and "imported by immigration" are useful classifications, particularly when governments have to negotiate with stakeholders in urban livestock systems about future courses of action.


Two different patterns in growth of cities: like a blanket

(Figure 1a) and with satellites (Figure 1b)

Source: Based on discussions with T. Deelstra.


A bullock cart in Jaipur (India), where it is a very common means of transport


An intensive chicken production unit, promoted by the government, such as those found around cities in China


Newly constructed apartment buildings among existing farms in Pune (India)


A plot with a guinea pig stable and green fodder belonging to a family that has migrated from a rural village to the outskirts of Lima (Peru)


In Western towns children and their (grand)parents often go to so-called "children's farms" where some aspects of rural farm-life are shown


Children's farms offer the opportunity to watch and caress animals or even to work as volunteers

Scale and degree of commercialization

The scale and degree of commercialization are perhaps the most important criteria for distinction among urban livestock systems. Basically, distinctions can be made among subsistence backyard, semi-commercial and large-scale commercial systems (Table 5). Large-scale commercial systems may ultimately be the most problematic ones to maintain. They often have few roots in the social network and tend to be associated with large amounts of waste such as dung and urine; they also tend to concentrate the social and economic benefits in the hands of a few and to disperse the costs across society. In these ways, large-scale commercial enterprises much resemble their "role-models" in industrialized systems, and they are now restricted or banned in Western countries and, for example, in Singapore. Smaller-scale subsistence and semi-commercial systems are based more on local recycling of nutrients; they allow local control over excessive pollution and they tend to internalize their own problems.

Species and animal types

The types of animals kept in urban livestock systems range from dairy cattle and buffaloes, via rabbits, goats and guinea pigs, to backyard poultry, industrially kept layers and broilers, and pigs of native and exotic breeds. Large farms as well as small farms can be either clean or dirty; animals kept in small cages can be clean and well maintained, although this is currently attracting much criticism from animal welfare groups. Animals can be kept in clean sheds (Photo 12), and excreta can be disposed of in a biogas pit or made into dungcakes for sale or use in the home (Photos 13 and 14). Ethnic and religious beliefs make for remarkable differences in preference for animal species: pigs are popular in China, goats are often kept in Moslem countries, and Hindu societies have a preference for cows.

Degree of integration/cohesion with other systems

An urban livestock system can consist of anything from one woman with one goat and/or some chickens in the backyard to a large company with more than 30 000 chickens. Another example of an urban livestock system is the Landhi milk colony in Karachi (Pakistan) where tens of thousands of cattle are kept in one place, most of them individually owned. This production pattern is a highly specialized, purely business-oriented system that fully exploits the neighbouring high-demand market, as well as the availability of buffaloes that have recently calved and of feed and fodder sources from the Sindh and Punjab provinces (Figure 2). In India, large dairy enterprises in, for example, Mumbai and Pune purchase buffalo and dairy cow calves from Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, a distance of about 1 000 km by road. Similarly, in Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire), beef comes from the grazing areas far north; in Damascus (Syrian Arab Republic), day-old chicks come (or used to come) from Europe; and roughage for dairy and beef animals in Khartoum (the Sudan) originates largely from the Gezira scheme, an irrigated area some 100 to 200 km south of the city.


A herd of sheep on the outskirts of Khartoum (the Sudan) where they are fed with cotton-cake, a by-product of the city's cotton industry


A decorated camel at the famous camel fair in Pushkar (India): an example of the ceremonial value of livestock


Cleaning the dung and other impurities from the floor of a cowshed with "sacred" cows that produce income, milk, satisfaction, emotional security and a sense of belonging to the family: the dung was used on vegetable gardens (Jaffna, Sri Lanka; early 1983)

Concluding comments on classification

There are an infinite number of ways of classifying urban livestock systems; each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Caste or ethnic background of the livestock owner is a relevant criterion in India and Africa; pet or production animal is relevant in London or New York; pig or non-pig in Moslem and Jewish communities; and another possible distinction relates to the extent to which the system depends on land availability, for instance for grazing or fodder production (on-plot versus off-plot) (Waters-Bayer, 1995). More generally, it appears that size, intensity and degree of commercialization are relevant almost everywhere. The major classification criteria used in this publication will therefore be based on scale and intensity, i.e. subsistence backyard and semi-commercial on the one hand, and commercial, industrial or specialized on the other.


General characteristics of two milk production systems in Dar-es-Salaam


Production system


Small-scale commercial



Economic sideline

Specialized commercial enterprise

Animal type



Herd size



Feed sources

Roadside grazing: (purchased) cut fresh fodder and hay

Paddock grazing; dairy cake

Marketing channels

Direct to individual consumers

Direct to institutional consumers; kiosks

Source: Sumberg (1996a).


The main areas (green) involved in the supply and receipt of buffaloes from the Landhi dairy colony

Source: Rossiter, 1993.


Biogas is cleaner than dung cakes and allows the manure to be used as fertilizer, but its production requires a certain number of animals and relatively high investment (India)


Dungcakes are widely used in India for cooking and heating purposes, but they cannot be used for fertilizer (Pune, India)


The cobblestones in Pompeii (Italy) bear the scars of wear and tear through intensive cart traffic (as mentioned in Chapter 1). In Madrid (Spain) there was a significant peri-urban livestock keeping sector until very recently. Sumberg (1996a, 1996b and 1999) shows how urban livestock systems have been very common in the United Republic of Tanzania for at least a century. After the major earthquake that hit Mexico City in the 1980s, many dead pigs were found in the rubble - animals that had been kept in apartments often several storeys high. A great many other examples of urban livestock keeping are discussed by RUAF (2000). Across Europe there are towns and cities with traditional "hay" and "straw" markets, and many squares and streets still carry that name. These sites were used for the trading of straw and hay which came from rural areas to feed the horses, oxen and cows that were needed for transport and/or production of milk, etc. in the city. Phelan (pers. comm., 1999) recounts how dairy cows used to be a common sight in Copenhagen (Denmark), where they cleaned-up leftovers from the beer breweries. Obviously, there was and is a point in keeping livestock in cities, either as a specialized enterprise or in combination with gardening and farming in and around the city. Urban livestock systems exist all over the world, in spite of the many problems they are perceived as creating. This raises the question, why do they exist?

Factors favouring urban livestock keeping

Many modern urban livestock systems occur in tropical regions, but their existence has been described for a long time, for example by the agricultural economist Von Thünen, who researched German conditions some 150 years ago. In his "location theory" he showed how intensive livestock systems tend to occur right in and around urban centres, together with other intensive forms of agriculture such as vegetable production (Nou, 1967). The production of forests for energy and timber took place at a somewhat greater distance from the towns, followed by cropping and more extensive forms of agriculture and, ultimately, by extensive livestock production. Obviously, the location theory should not be taken too literally; fossil fuel has replaced timber and the general pattern may be disturbed by rivers, roads, mountain-ridges, etc. Still, the basic outline of Von Thünen's theory should be kept in mind when discussing the emergence of urban livestock systems in any part of the world (Figure 3 and Photo 15).

It can be hypothesized that (peri-)urban agriculture and urban livestock systems originated from several complementary factors, including:

Other factors that affect the tendency for urban livestock systems to emerge include the availability of specialized services such as veterinarians and processing industries and the need for short distances between producers and consumers for commodities such as fresh milk and "hot" meat. These factors combine with the availability of more land at a greater distance from the city, where staple crops such as cereals can be grown together with feed and where animals can be raised for fattening in the city or to serve as pets for urbanites (Photos 16 and 17). The upland town of Batu (East Java, Indonesia) used to have a thriving market of pet rabbits, which were sold at weekends to the wealthy upper class from nearby Surabaya and Malang.

Similarly, cattle and sheep fattened around London (the United Kingdom) were (and still are) raised and grown in Scotland; animals raised in rangeland areas of the southern Sahel are finished in cities such as Abidjan; and urban dairies of Karachi and Mumbai transport their lactating animals for long distances (Figure 2).

Knowledge and understanding of these factors are essential before ad hoc improvements in urban livestock keeping can be attempted.


Von Thünen's model showing the relationship between distance to the city (i.e. the market) and the pattern of farming followed. It is based mainly on transport costs and the availability of labour, as calculated some 150 years ago. The upper half of the diagram depicts an idealized homogeneous situation; the lower half shows what happens if the area is more heterogeneous with, for example, rivers and/or other cities or hills disturbing the homogeneity. Note that forest for energy and timber was grown in the vicinity of the town, owing to the absence of modern fuels

Source: Adapted from Bieleman (1992).

Problems and challenges in urban livestock systems

Many urban livestock systems are undergoing a period of crisis. In many government offices, there is a feeling that urban livestock systems are under pressure from a variety of issues. Many of these issues are clearly problematic, others are open to several interpretations.

Urban livestock systems as a potential hazard to public health. Potential hazards for public health range from poor hygiene, caused by the presence of dung, flies, parasites and zoonoses, to the difficulty of controlling product quality when food from animal origin is used directly by consumers. For example, livestock keeping without a proper sewage system may favour mosquitoes that transmit malaria and some important viral diseases, such as yellow fever, dengue, Rift Valley fever and West Nile virus. Zoonoses are diseases that affect both humans and animals. They are more likely to spread when hygienic conditions are poor - for example, commercial forms of livestock keeping in urban areas are particularly favourable to the multiplication of rodents because these systems require the storage of animal foodstuffs. Rats are the reservoir of, for instance, hanta virus, an important human disease in Asia. In Africa and Latin America a human tapeworm makes use of scavenging pigs to complete its lifecycle. Pigs feeding on human excrement containing tapeworm eggs become infected by cysticerci (the larval stage),while humans who have eaten insufficiently heated pork meat become hosts to the adult tapeworm. The disease becomes a serious problem when other humans, such as playing children, are infected with tapeworm eggs from human excrements (see Animal health, food safety and animal welfare in Chapter 5). The housing of animals, maintenance of hygiene and proper storage of animal feeds are typical responses to these problems.

Urban livestock systems as a potential hazard to animal health. Poverty, ignorance and a lack of veterinary services favour the spread of human and animal diseases. In addition, where there are poverty and administrative incompetence, these diseases are less likely to be noticed by veterinary officials. In Ghana, the first outbreak of African swine fever (ASF), an endemic disease in East Africa, occurred among backyard animals. The disease had time to become rooted in backyard pigs across Ghana before the cause and significance of the subsequent mortality were discovered by the veterinary services. Uncontrolled slaughter aggravated the spread of ASF. In a similar way, it may have been refugees from Mozambique who brought Newcastle disease to Zimbabwe some years ago. The severe mortality in chickens all over the country was difficult to constrain, as adequate vaccination campaigns in backyard poultry were complicated to organize.

However, in spite of the thinking prevalent in many government offices, it is incorrect to blame these problems solely on backyard farming. Large losses have been incurred in so-called modern commercial and industrial systems, such as the outbreaks of classical swine fever and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in Western Europe.

Pollution from manure effluent and abattoir waste. Pollution from animal production is caused by a range of issues, some of which are poorly specified and based on conjecture or local observations. Potential problems with dung and urine disposal are obvious; flies breeding on animal and vegetable waste may transmit food-borne diseases, such as diarrhoea. Problems arising from wastewater and rejected meat from abattoirs (slaughterhouses) are less obvious to most of the general public. When the building construction is adequate, there is proper meat inspection and strict removal and destruction of rejected carcasses, abattoirs do not pose a risk for human health.

Depending on the local culture, it is quite common to find very clean processing of animal produce (Photo 21).

The pollution issue needs to be balanced with the fact that livestock keeping using the resources available in (peri-)urban areas contributes substantially to the cleaning of local waste. Chickens keep the backyard clean and create value from leftover food, while pigs utilize hotel waste and by-products from agro-industries, thereby reducing the amount of organic waste to be disposed of. Some cities actively promote programmes to recycle poultry waste for agricultural purposes (Ghana). Urban dairy animals in Mexico City clean leftover food (tortillas) while their dung is circulated to urban gardens. Photo 22 shows how a peri-urban rabbit system near Guatemala City is used to clean up local leftovers and recycle nutrients to gardens (Santandreu, Castro and Ronca, 2000; Drechsel et al., 2000; UAM, 1999). Livestock pollution is more of a problem in large bio-industries than at the backyard level.


A typical case of Von Thüren's location theory in a Chinese city of today: in the foreground, a dairy cow of a commercial farm; slightly to the left behind the cow on the riverbank, a "subsistence" herder with goats; in the distance, greenhouses and open air vegetable farms against the backdrop of a growing city. The diary farmers supply dung to the greenhouse owners to fuel biogas pits.


The chickens in this unit are parent stock raised on cheap land in the countryside to produce animals for industrial poultry units around cities (Indonesia)


At this feed market just outside Khartoum (the Sudan) straw and other fodder from rural areas are sold to urban livestock keepers


A feedlot in the Gezira Scheme, South Khartoum (the Sudan), where animals raised in villages are fattened to be sold in the city

Urban livestock systems are often old-fashioned, unproductive and inefficient. The inefficiency of urban livestock systems is a matter of perception rather than objective fact. Remarkable changes of attitude regarding urban livestock have been achieved by special teaching programmes, for example in Mexico, resulting in urban youth and veterinary graduates understanding the value of livestock keeping in and around cities. Typically, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and urban planners are far more positive than government officials who are trained to see and control only one aspect of the whole issue - health or product quality problems, for example - without taking all the other factors into account. NGOs and local stakeholders tend to regard the sector from the point of view of its profitability and usefulness for the producer and local consumers, whereas much academic training tends to emphasize the biological performance of animals, often based on standards and regulations from countries that are quite inappropriate to local conditions; (re-)training and institutional change are only two of the important measures required to improve urban livestock keeping. Definitions of productivity and efficiency refer to a ratio of output over input, not to high production levels as such. Table 6 shows that a high output (reflected by a higher gain in live weight) does not always reflect economically sound results (the cost of the supplement exceeds the extra value in live-weight gain).


Effects of supplementing medium-quality roughage rations with coconut cake


Coconut cake level


(kg/day per animal, air-dried basis)




LWG (g/day)



Feed cost (SL Rs/day)



Value LWG (SL Rs/day)



Margin (SL Rs/day)



Note: The value of 1 kg of live weight gain (LWG) is 10 Sri Lankan rupees (SL R).

Source: Schiere and Nell (1993).

At the same time, low output does not necessarily reflect low productivity. For example, scavenging chickens producing only one or two eggs per week require hardly any inputs and can be economically profitable in terms of cash return per cash input. The equation of productivity with efficiency can also be misleading because it does not take into account the multiple goals of much, particularly small-scale, urban livestock keeping. For example, pigs clear away waste as well as producing meat, while guinea pigs, rabbits or even goats provide social satisfaction as pets along with opportunities for producing milk and side income.


Stray animals, such as these in a peri-urban neighbourhood in Viet Nam, are at high risk of catching and transmitting diseases


These rabbits are being kept hygienically with simple means in Malang (Indonesia)


Clean processing of rabbits in Malang (Indonesia)


A peri-urban rabbit system near Guatemala City is used to clean up local leftovers


Rabbit manure is applied to gardens in Guatemala (see also Photo 22)

Only a small proportion of urban food requirements comes from urban livestock. A major concern regarding urban livestock systems is that the (growing) demand for food, particularly for wealthier consumers, from animal origin in urban areas is outpacing the production potential of urban systems. Urban livestock may never be capable of producing enough food for the entire city (even when food production is the only function of livestock), but the urban livestock system's share of food production can be substantial for some sectors (Table 7).

An important point for understanding urban livestock systems is, however, that animals have many functions (see also Table 8). In addition to providing food, they:

Indeed, small-scale enterprises keeping rabbits, guinea pigs or even poultry, goats or cows often start up in areas where no similar activities existed previously and generally do not demand public money. For example, rabbit keeping was adopted in London during the Second World War as a solution to issues of food scarcity. The smaller forms of animal production are very dynamic and adaptive. They provide income and useful products to the city's inhabitants and they contribute, even as a side activity, substantially to the livelihood of many households. Generally, even in cities, a rural ("green") landscape is appreciated; this is reflected, for instance, by the higher prices of houses facing farm plots or parks instead of apartment buildings (L. Van Den Berg, personal communication, 2000).


Estimated daily inflows of milk to Dar-es-Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania


Milk supplied





22 000



8 000



4 000



2 000



14 000



50 000


Source: Based on Kurwijila and Henriksen (FAO, 1995d); and Auerbock et al.

(1993) quoted by Sumberg (1996a).


Positive characteristics of small-scale urban livestock systems at different levels of system hierarchy

Farm level



Labour opportunity


Investment opportunity




Sense of security


Availability of inputs and infrastructure (feed, veterinary services, markets, credit)


Little need for transport facilities


Little storage, packaging or processing required


Recycling of organic waste (garbage, hotel waste, agro-industrial waste)

City level


Social resilience of local communities


Food supply in time of crisis


Fresh produce in inner city


Educational value, link between urban people and "nature"


Source of income (from taxes and levies) for government and officials

Source: Based on information from several cases and the authors' discussions with colleagues.


Urban livestock systems face problems but they also offer opportunities, as illustrated in Table 8. The opportunities depend on people's different perceptions of reality and their, often unexpected, creativity and survival skills. One way to overcome the problems associated with urban livestock is to concentrate on the positive aspects; the (re)training of policy-makers is important in this respect and the redesigning of curricula may be required.

The problems of complex systems such as livestock keeping in urban areas can be dealt with in several ways; they have, in the terminology of modern system theory, several coping strategies. For example:

Possible technologies for implementation of these coping strategies are dealt with in the following chapters. A general introduction to technologies related to urban livestock is given in Chapter 3, and subsequent chapters focus on species, husbandry techniques, processing and waste management.

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