Farm animals are an ancient, vital and renewable natural resource. Throughout the developing world, they are means for hundreds of millions of people to escape absolute poverty. Livestock in developing countries contribute up to 80 percent of agricultural GDP; 600 million rural poor people rely on livestock for their livelihoods.
Globally, livestock are becoming agriculture’s most economically important sub-sector, with demand in developing countries for animal foods projected to double over the next 20 years. The ongoing ‘livestock revolution’ offers many of the world’s poor a pathway out of poverty.
Livestock not only provide poor people with food, income, traction and fertilizer but also act as catalysts that transform subsistence farming into income-generating enterprises, allowing poor households to join the market economy.
Livestock sustain most forms of agricultural intensification—from the Sahelian rangelands of West Africa to the mixed smallholdings in the highlands of East Africa to highly intensified rice production in Asia. Research is helping farmers exploit the potential of their animals to turn the nutrient cycling on their farms faster and more efficiently.
Holding back livestock development in poor countries are inappropriate policies, scarce livestock feeds, devastating diseases, degraded lands and water resources, and poor access to markets. Research by ILRI and its partners is helping to alleviate these problems by developing new knowledge as well as technological and policy options.
ILRI’s strategic intention is to use livestock as a development tool, one that widens and sustains three major pathways out of poverty: (1) securing the assets of the poor, (2) improving smallholder and pastoral productivity and (3) increasing market participation by the poor.