Agriculture / Livestock / Markets

Smallholder livestock farming is a mainstay of the poor

Woman carrying traditional water pots for sale in Niger
Livestock production employs more than 1.3 billion people and livestock keeping is a mainstay of the livelihoods of some 600 million poor farmers in the developing world.

Increasing demand for meat, milk and eggs in poor countries, particularly in India, China and other emerging economies, is driving economic growth.

Making smallholder dairy production more competitive is a powerful tool for reducing poverty, raising nutrition levels and improving the livelihoods of rural people in many developing countries. Rising milk demand, which is growing by about 15 million tonnes per year in developing countries, provides a chance for small-scale dairy farmers to raise their milk production, increase the nutritional status of their households and create jobs.

About 150 million small-scale dairy farming households (750 million people) are engaged in milk production globally, with most of them in developing countries.Over ten years ago, India surpassed the United States as the biggest dairy producer in the world, and by far most of its dairy is produced by smallholders. Pro-poor dairy policy change in Kenya—where nearly 800,000 smallholder households depend on dairying for their livelihoods and some 350,000 people depend on jobs in milk collection, transportation, processing and sales—has greatly helped small-scale milk producers and vendors make their (unpasteurized) milk safer and more affordable by the poor while making a bigger profit for themselves, with the benefits adding up to more than USD33 million every year.

Rising demand for meat and dairy products in South Asia will require an additional 150–200 million cattle and 40% more pigs and poultry. The market for milk, meat and staple foods within Africa is estimated to be USD150 billion a year, far exceeding Africa’s market for internationally traded crops such as coffee, tea and flowers. Most of the milk, meat and food staples consumed in the developing world are produced by small-scale mixed crop-and-livestock farmers.

These small ‘mixed-system’ farms, which integrate livestock keeping with crop growing, can be models of efficient food production, with cattle and buffalo providing the draft power and manure needed to till the land and nourish the soils, for example, and crop wastes providing supplementary feed for the farm animals.

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