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.