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Livestock and Poverty in Karamoja - An Analysis of Livestock Ownership, Thresholds, and Policy Implications


This report from the Karamoja Resilience Support Unit (KRSU) analyses poverty in Karamoja from the perspective of livestock ownership, and uses a livestock threshold to categorize households as poor and non-poor. High levels of livestock poverty are then discussed in relation to programming and policy options.

Conventional national poverty assessments use cash income or consumption expenditure as key indicators of poverty, and thresholds or poverty lines to distinguish between poor and non-poor households. In pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas, an asset-based approach is useful for understanding poverty and in particular, the measurement of livestock assets. While conventional poverty assessments often use an income threshold, such as US$1.25/day to define the poor and non-poor, a livestock threshold can be used in pastoralist areas for the same purpose. This analysis used raw data from a recent livestock population survey to analyze livestock ownership in Karamoja, and measure poverty against a livestock threshold. The survey did not collect information on the ownership of camels, donkeys or poultry, and so overall, the livestock ownership results in the analysis are an under-estimate of actual ownership. The analysis covered the six main livestock-rearing districts of Karamoja viz. Napak, Nakapiripirit, Moroto, Kaabong, Kotido, and Amudat.

Key Findings:

  • For an agro-pastoralist household with six family members, the livestock threshold was 3.3 Tropical Livestock Units (TLU)/capita, equivalent to about 5 cattle per person or 33 sheep or goats per person. This threshold enables a livelihood based primarily on livestock production, complemented with some own production of cereals;
  • In agro-pastoralist and pastoralist areas of Karamoja, 56.5% of households owned less than 3.3 TLU/capita and so could be categorized as “livestock poor;”
  • The analysis showed a skewed ownership of livestock towards wealthier households. For example, the wealthiest 30% of households owned 69.3% of livestock in terms of TLU. This pattern of ownership is similar to some pastoralist areas of Ethiopia and Kenya, where comparable data are available;
  • Among poorer households, those below the 3.3 TLU/capita livestock threshold, livestock ownership was skewed away from the threshold. For example, 47% of these households owned only 1.2 TLU/capita or less;
  • Only 13% of households owned no livestock at all.
  • Poverty in Karamoja is best measured and understood using measures of both livestock ownership and income;
  • Given the numbers of livestock-poor households, the use of area-wide, generic livestock policies and programming raises questions about the relevance of these approaches, specifically for poorer households. For example, a common strategy of poorer households is to maximize the rate of herd growth and so build financial capital. During the growth period, livestock sales are deliberately and logically minimized;
  • There is a need to consider how restocking might be further used in Karamoja and at what scale. The design of restocking, at any scale, requires an understanding of traditional restocking systems that are in use, and other strategies used by poorer households to build herds. Restocking should support traditional restocking systems;
  • Restocking is not a standalone intervention, and requires coordination and integration with other types of support until herds have reached a sufficient size. One option is to link restocking with social protection, with the latter supporting food security during the period of herd growth. A combined restocking-social protection approach would need careful design and piloting;
  • Restocking is not a panacea or suitable for all households. Communities will often have rational criteria for selecting people to be restocked.
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