Given that the majority of the rural poor keep livestock and that markets for livestock products are rapidly growing, supporting smallholder livestock production and marketing can make a significant contribution to the livelihoods of the poor and offers substantial scope for expansion to alleviate poverty. This potential is far from being realized, however, and there is much wider scope for the promotion of livestock, especially among poor rural communities, by national and international policy makers.
In seeking to identify target groups for pro-poor livestock development policies, it must be recognised that livestock are themselves productive capital assets and that market-oriented livestock production requires some investment in physical and human capital. Thus, the main source of income for the poorest, even in rural areas, is usually wage labour, and it is mostly households above a certain asset threshold that rely directly on primary agricultural production. However, while livestock expansion has a direct impact on employment and incomes in farming, it also has an indirect impact on employment in the labour intensive, non-tradable, rural non-farm sector. These indirect benefits of livestock development may outweigh its direct benefits but are rarely emphasized.
Given that increased income from agriculture is effective in generating employment in local nontradable goods and services, this paper makes a case for combining poverty relief through direct support to smallholder producers with poverty relief through employment creation. However, for this combined strategy to be effective, rapid growth of livestock output and market supply is needed to generate increasing cash incomes for producers. Arguably this rapid growth is more PPLPI Research Report 2 likely to be achieved by targeting livestock development policies on the 'not so poor, yet still poor' smallholders, rather than on the 'poorest of the poor'.
PPLPI, FAO, Rome, Italy, 10 pp.