Leveraging human nutrition through livestock interventions: Perceptions, knowledge, barriers and opportunities in the Sahel

The potential of livestock and animal-source foods (ASF) to improve nutrition of vulnerable households in the Sahel countries is large, but currently underutilised, despite the dependence of human nutrition on livestock in some areas. This study assesses the perceptions of the linkages between livestock and human nutrition interventions by West African implementers; the challenges faced; and the lessons learnt to significantly leverage nutrition in livestock interventions. Here, we report a qualitative study combining: 1) a formative research with semi-structured interviews of key informants [n = 36], and thematic analysis; and 2) a participatory work conducted during a regional workshop. Results were grouped to provide insights into several aspects: a) dietary, storage and preservation practices of ASF, b) livestock-human nutrition impact pathways, c) interventions with potential to improve nutrition, d) monitoring and evaluation, e) coordination issues, and f) knowledge gaps. Thirteen pathways were identified through which livestock impacts human nutrition, each presenting different trade-offs. About 79% of the participants of the workshop and working with livestock reported to never having monitored outcomes of attempts to improve human nutrition. Lessons learnt highlighted the importance of local ASF taboos and beneficiary targeting and identified promising interventions. The principal challenges identified were related to capacity-building, programming, or to funding issues. There was agreement among stakeholders on the importance of livestock and ASF to improve human nutrition, and on the prominent disconnect whereby livestock interventions often neglect human nutritional goals, due to the complexity of impact pathways and the multiple roles of livestock in livelihoods. Stronger collaboration among researchers and implementers could contribute to expanding the body of evidence. This compilation of insights could promote dialogue and guide further progress.