Decent Rural Employment


Livestock plays a crucial economic role for around 60 percent of rural households in developing countries – including smallholder farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists. It contributes to the livelihoods of about 1.7 billion poor people and 70 percent of those employed in the sector are women. Livestock, including dairy and other animal products, creates cash and in-kind incomes and enables savings for future needs. It can also provide transport of produce, fuel and people as well as inputs for crop production (traction power and manure). As a result, the sector plays a major part in reducing poverty, improving resilience as well as combating food insecurity and malnutrition.

Demand for livestock products is expected to rise as a result of projected growth rates in world population, growing incomes and urbanization. Livestock production is indeed one of the fastest-growing sectors in agriculture and it offers employment opportunities along numerous animal production value chains. It also generates jobs in related sectors including transport, trade, feed and input provision as well as veterinary services. Gainful and productive employment opportunities can also be derived from value-enhancing activities in livestock. Due to limited requirements in capital investment and land ownership, particularly short cycle species production (small ruminants, poultry, dairy, etc.) present unique prospects for the rural poor, particularly women and youth, to benefit from surging demands for animal products.

Yet, some employment challenges in the livestock sector remain and need to be overcome. For instance, small-scale livestock production is sometimes characterized by low productivity levels and incomes. This is often the result of limited access to technologies, infrastructure, credit, land, technical know-how and training on husbandry techniques, which can lead to poor animal health and limited use of genetic potential. Other sources of risk include high economic insecurity, no or limited access to social protection, and a prevalence of underemployment due to seasonality of demand and supply. In addition, children from poor rural households may be required to take care of animals, which can expose them to hazardous activities or hinder their ability to pursue an education. Women and youth with no access to capital also often engage in livestock-related activities as unpaid family workers. Finally, when patriarchal ownership patterns dominate, women may not have access to or control over income derived from livestock activities.

The role of FAO:

FAO aims to strengthen livestock value chains so that they can continue to provide productive and decent employment opportunities for rural communities, particularly youth and women. The Organization works with governments, civil society, private sector and other UN agencies to overcome challenges and promote the implementation of youth- and gender-sensitive livestock policies and programmes. Key areas of intervention include: lending policy support, strengthening financial mechanisms, supporting market-oriented livestock activities, and providing inputs and training on animal health and production. FAO equally stresses the importance of meeting international labour standards in the livestock sector. To this end, it promotes efforts to eliminate child labour, improve occupational health and safety, and address employment-related challenges and risks.