When the Ark comes to town
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CTA. 2000. When the Ark comes to town. Spore 89. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46906
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore89.pdf
Millions of people in ACP countries live from livestock farming in towns and their peripheries. Their activities have to be monitored to protect public health and the environment. The urban livestock farming sector is coming in from the margins, and...
Millions of people in ACP countries live from livestock farming in towns and their peripheries. Their activities have to be monitored to protect public health and the environment. The urban livestock farming sector is coming in from the margins, and it is set to play an important role in a complex system of food security if it can be properly organised. In the last four decades, the urban population of many ACP countries has expanded more than fivefold. The town is hungry, biting away endlessly at neighbouring lands to extend its periphery. These areas used to be countryside, then they became suburbs, and now they are also used by two breeds of livestock farmers: the old ones who have been there a long time, plus the newcomers who have been attracted by the promises of the town. The town beckons seductively, drawing in many small farmers, sometimes with two occupations, sometimes the sons of livestock farmers, to start raising rabbits, hens, and guinea fowls. Others bring their herds of animals. A city like Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso is home to 4,000 head of cattle, 6,000 sheep and pigs, 2,000 goats and 19,000 fowls. Realising the benefits Livestock farming does not sit or fit comfortably in the town; for long thwarted and certainly not enabled by town councils and the authorities, the sector shuffles along, more often than not unchecked by both its practitioners and local government. For many a poor family, keeping animals is the main strategy for survival in the town. There are several advantages for livestock farmers, whether recent converts or with years of experience, to operate there. Above all, veterinary services are close at hand, as are processing plants (for pasteurising milk, for example), markets and distribution networks. Even for those who have set up shop on the edge of town, they are close enough to these facilities to make significant savings on transport, not to mention the obvious gains in cutting down on loss of quality of fresh products in transit. The sector is not only a source of fresh produce for the local market, but it also generates employment, especially for women looking after poultry, rabbits and other small animals. There are no drawbacks to urban livestock farming in ACP countries though; the problems vary according to the animals in question. The essential problem lies in feeding the animals, since urban livestock farmers do not grow any fodder. Space is also an issue. On the edge of the town, and above all in the over-crowded centre, it is common to see a herd of animals huddled in a makeshift shelter with all that that means for risks to animal comfort and health or on plots zoned for housing construction. Where urban agriculture has clear benefits for the urban environment, urban livestock farming does not, and the sight of a herd of pigs chomping on urban waste (even if they do add value to it) is not going to persuade inconvenienced local people to think otherwise. Finally, the most important problem is that of hygiene and food safety. Diseases which were once seen as purely rural are starting to take root in towns. Indeed, some studies point to clear links between high infection rates in people and unmonitored methods of slaughtering animals. Steer it, don t stop it 'Cities need to encourage urban and peri-urban agriculture, aquaculture, food forestry, and animal husbandry, as well as safe waste recycling, as elements of more self-reliant local food-system initiatives.' This is the broad mission shared by a coalition of farmers, business leaders and community organisations in the book For Hunger-proof City (see Spore 86, page 8). For urban livestock production to properly play its role in urban food security, much depends on the ability of the city authorities to change their planning norms to allow zoning for livestock, to make available viable spaces and to solve the problem of feeding and watering animals. This is a sector whose practices are not yet well-defined, and there is a need to provide training to breeders and information to families and livestock units, and to strengthen health and veterinary services. With such measures, towns and cities in ACP States could draw much benefit from the sector. It is by no means an easy task but, taking the examples of what has been done in urban agriculture in Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe (see Spore 81, page 2) as well as in Guinea Bissau, the key is to provide a legal framework for organising the sector; this will open the way for breeders to get credit and technical assistance. There are already a number of organised efforts which show the way forward. In Mozambique, for example, in a belt 30 kilometres around the city of Maputo, 187 cooperatives active in poultry production have formed the General Cooperative Union (UGC). The UGC provides poultry feed for the chickens, technical support to the coops, and operates a abattoir to high hygienic standards for cleaning, plucking, washing and packing the chickens. The entire chain of rearing, slaughter and distribution is perfectly organised: the products are eaten throughout the city and 5,000 poultry farmers earn a steady income. The moral of that story is that without infrastructure or feedstuffs for the animals and without professional organisation from one end of the chain to the other, urban and peri-urban livestock farming cannot grow beyond the level of the artisan. For the majority of urban livestock farmers, the road has enough pitfalls already. To know more: Making better use of animal resources in a rapidly urbanizing world: a professional challenge, by M Ghirotti, article in FAO World Animal Review, issue 92, 1999. FAO, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy. Fax: + 39 06 5705 3360. The full text of the article is available free on Website: www.fao.org/docrep/x1700t/x1700t02. htm [caption] In the centre of Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa ( new flower ), cattle graze in the park below the United Nations compound.