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Livestock sector development and poverty reduction

FAO publication says targeted policies and capacity building crucial

Photo: ©FAO/Raphy Favre
Smallholder livestock keepers need support to gain access to investment, technology and markets.

10 September 2012, Rome - A new FAO publication says carefully tailored policy and institutional changes can help to unlock the livestock sector's poverty reduction potential.


"Although an estimated 750 million poor have a major stake in the livestock sector, only a small minority of them have so far been able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by livestock sector growth" the authors write.


"In most instances, governments do not deliberately formulate policies that are anti-poor; rather they fail to realize that economic growth, although necessary, is not always sufficient for poverty reduction," they explain.


The book, Livestock sector development for poverty reduction: an economic and policy perspective, collates evidence from a broad array of sources and perspectives showing that investing in livestock can sustain livelihoods and spur economic growth. It illustrates that good policies and institutions are essential to the support of equitable livestock sector development.


But it equally warns that the specific context of each country means that a blueprint approach to policy and institutional change does not work: Identifying the most appropriate institutional and policy reform requires making space for experimentation and learning from the associated successes and failures.


The authors also argue it is important for governments, donors and others to make a distinction between livestock sector-related policies that lead to economic growth, and policies and institutional change which help the very poorest families to survive or improve their livelihoods.


This is especially critical in areas where the depth of poverty among livestock keepers is particularly high. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa it is estimated that more than 85 percent of poor livestock keepers live in extreme poverty.


For people living in extreme poverty, the authors note, "livestock may not provide many growth opportunities, but are more likely to act as safety nets - tools for survival, rather than tools for development."

The book, subtitled Livestock's many virtues, is the last in a series of publications written under FAO's decade-long Pro-poor Livestock Policy Initiative (PPLPI), a global endeavour funded primarily by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) to improve livestock sector policy in ways that increase the benefits to poor people.