Urban livestock keeping has been in existence for many years, and despite perceptions to the contrary, it may even make a comeback thanks to its various roles such as effective utilisation of empty plots, cleaning up of waste, and the provision of both fresh food and income. Urban livestock is not a new phenomenon and it occurs in cities across the globe, not only in the tropics.
Of the many interesting and positive aspects of urban livestock production, the most important is the generation of income. Animals are an effective means of generating cash for the poor sector of the population. They also provide fresh produce in the inner city with little or no packaging and processing, and few additional costs. The need for and cost of transport is reduced and this impacts on traffic flow. Furthermore, animals play an important role as waste cleaners utilising domestic garbage, hotel waste and agro-industrial waste that would otherwise remain in the street.
However, there are aspects of urban livestock and coping strategies that need to be developed in parallel to reduce negative impacts. Public health problems can often be encountered. These include diseases such as parasites from pigs or viruses such as Avian Flu, with its potential for transmission to humans. Smell, dust and noise with related pollution (due to manure effluent and wastes e.g. from slaughterhouses) are the main nuisances described. High density livestock production where space is limiting, also creates health and welfare problems for animals.
Due to the increasing phenomena of livestock production in and around the cities and its importance toward improving household food security, FAO has developed coping strategies. Capacity building to assure better veterinary health services and better treatment is associated with appropriate awareness raising in the frame of livestock programmes in peri-urban areas. The implementation of smaller scale enterprises and the use of small animals are also part of these coping mechanisms. Through the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), FAO helps Low-Income and Food-Deficit Countries to improve their food security both at national and at household levels.