Livestock is an integral part of the biotic structure of the ecosystem playing an important role in the economy and environment. The poorest people in the world live in rural areas of tropical developing and sub-tropical countries.

Most keep cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, camels and poultry (chickens and ducks) and are among the most important assets of the poor as well as the mainstays of their farming.

In some communities there is the inclusion of micro livestock of rabbits, turkeys and guinea fowls.
Globally, livestock contribute to the livelihoods of approximately 70% of the world’s poor. In Africa livestock are vital for poor households, and must be a key part of meeting the MDGs targets by 2015.

Livestock in Africa is critical as:

  • The most important sources of cash income for poor households. They also provide meat and milk while poultry provide eggs readily available in small amounts that can meet demands of a family without the need for a cold chain.

  • One of the few assets owned by poor households and can be crucial in maintaining households’ survival in times of crisis. Livestock are both inflation-proof and a productive investment. 
  • Central to farming systems used by the poor households, providing draught power and manure–often when the purchase of substitutes is impossible. 
  • Central to major social support systems and ceremonies. In many African societies, livestock are the basis for traditional social systems. 
  • Provide a range of the other benefits including hides and skins, fuel for cooking and appropriate transport for carrying water, goods and people