Animals, poor people and food insecurity: Opportunities for improved livelihoods through efficient natural resource management
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Outlook on Agriculture;31(3): 161-175
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/29337
Poverty is a rural dilemma and continues to be a persistent multidimensional problem. It is associated with poor farmers, small farm systems, the landless, resource endowments, the socioeconomic environment and externalities. Over 75% of the poor live and work in rural areas, trapped in a poverty-adaptation-fragile lives-little hope-low life expectancy complex, with an enduring hope for self-reliance and a more comfortable life tomorrow. Since agricultural growth is central to improved livelihoods, strategies that focus on promoting such growth are critical: improved efficiency in natural resource management (NRM), of which animals are a part, can directly contribute to productivity enhancement and reduced poverty. It is estimated that approximately 678 million of the rural poor keep animals, within which the largest ownership of animals is seen in mixed crop-animal systems. The role and contribution of animals is discussed with reference to household benefits - current, medium-term and long-term savings, increased productivity of mixed farm systems, sustainability of agricultural systems and the environment, and enhancement of social stability. While large ruminants (buffalo and cattle) are very valuable for agriculture and farm security, milk and beef, ploughing and dung production, small animals (goats, sheep, chickens, pigs and ducks) are particularly important for nutritional and household security. The link between gender and animals is emphasized, especially the implications of the very strong relationship between women and children and small animals. This paper describes in detail characteristics of poor farmers and small farm systems. It discusses opportunities for NRM, and presents examples of data from different categories of animals and the extent of their contribution to total farm income, which in Asia ranges from 7-69%. It is concluded that improved animal production systems can increasingly make a significant contribution to improved human welfare, rural growth and reduced poverty. To achieve this, however, much more investment in agricultural research and development is necessary that can target less-favoured rainfed areas, coupled with participatory and interdisciplinary approaches, effective public private sector partnerships, and commitment to purpose.