IDS working papers;269

Livestock, disease, trade and markets : policy choices for the livestock sector in Africa

Published on 1 January 2006

For many years African livestock production was seen as a poor investment for
development. Assumptions about low productivity, ‘backward’ management systems, lack of
market orientation and poor growth potentials consigned the livestock sector to the
sidelines. But after years of being ignored, livestock issues are beginning to be put back on
Africa’s development agenda. Livestock are being recognised as essential assets for
livelihoods; as key to moving out of poverty; as a way into lucrative markets; as a source of
foreign exchange; as well as important cultural resources, social safety nets and means of
saving. Given this renewed emphasis, this Working Paper asks: What are some of the
underlying debates, assumptions and trade-offs? What competing perspectives on ways
forward for African livestock development are being explicitly – and implicitly – discussed?
The paper focuses on three interlocking themes – markets, trade and standards; service
delivery and organisational arrangements; and science and technology priorities, examining
both policy debates and field-level experiences from across Africa. The analysis suggests that,
despite a common rhetorical commitment to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and
pro-poor policy, there are tensions within the development strategies being proposed.
Today’s primary policy focus is on livestock for trade and export – relating to a general
concern to ‘modernise’ the sector, and boost production, requiring new approaches to both
livestock production and management and the delivery of animal health care and veterinary
services. Potentially, the paper argues, this comes at the expense of more simple initiatives
to support productivity, breeding and disease management.
Keywords: livestock, science, policy, veterinary, livelihoods, animal health care, markets,
trade, standards

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