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cover:Investing in the livestock sector. Why good numbers matter
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  • Ugo Pica-Ciamarra
    Livestock Economist
    Animal Production and
    Health Division
    FAO HQ, Room C-509
    Viale delle Terme di Caracalla
    Rome 00153, Italy
    Tel: +39 06 570 53897
  • [email protected]
©Ministry of Agriculture, Tanzania


Good practices to collect livestock data: A guidebook


Many rural households in developing countries depend on livestock for their livelihoods. Sustainable livestock systems can contribute to reducing poverty, ending hunger, and improving health, and can also be key in addressing environmental degradation and climate change, and preserving biodiversity.


Measuring livestock systems—and the socioeconomic benefits they generate—remains a challenge due to a lack of high-quality, nationally representative data. Livestock is often neglected in many national statistical operations and, as a result, decision makers are unable to design evidence-based livestock sector policies and investments.


In most developing countries, information on livestock is scant at best, and when available it is often inaccurate, preventing stakeholders from tapping into the many development opportunities that livestock provide. It is estimated that 60 percent of rural households developing countries depend on livestock for their livelihoods; livestock is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors, and is anticipated to become one the largest contributors to agricultural value added. Sustainable livestock systems can contribute to reduucing poverty and ending hunger, and to improving food security, nutrition, and health. They also have complex interactions with ecosystems and are part of the equation when it comes to addressing environmental degradation and climate change, and preserving biodiversity.


The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) team, the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics, and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics recently published the guidebook entitled “Measuring the role of Livestock in the Households’ Economy”.


This Guidebook presents a comprehensive module template for effectively including livestock in multi-topic and agricultural household surveys questionnaires implemented in developing countries, and on lessons learned from the implementation of comprehensive livestock questionnaires, as part of multi-topic household surveys, in Niger, Tanzania, and Uganda. It includes short, standard, and expanded versions of a livestock questionnaire tested and validated in different countries. The livestock questionnaires differ in the level of detail that can be gauged from each, and have four common objectives:

  • to generate basic statistics on key livestock-related variables, such as livestock ownership;
  • to measure the value of household livestock;
  •  to measure the cash and in-kind income from livestock; and
  • to characterize household livestock husbandry and production practices.

The Guidebook is a practical tool for survey practitioners—including Bureaus of Statistics, ministries responsible for livestock, and non-governmental and civil-society organizations, regional institutions, international organizations, the private sector, and other stakeholders—to collect data on the role of livestock in the household economy and its contribution to livelihoods and identify priority areas for policy reforms and investments.


The data will assist in generating statistics on key features of the smallholder livestock sector—from herd size and composition to husbandry and production practices, from meat, milk, and egg production to livestock income. These statistics represent the backbone for effective livestock-sector policies and investments.