Livestock contribute nearly 60% of the combined agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) in the Horn of Africa and are an important component of the livelihoods of an estimated 40 million poor in the region.

To many poor people in the Horn of Africa, they provide the only means of drawing a livelihood from the region’s arid and semi-arid lands. Livestock and their products represent valuable marketable products. And the growing demand for animal protein in the IGAD region, coupled with rising world grain process which reduce the competitively of intensive livestock systems suggest that livestock products will become increasing valuable.
Of no less importance are the other ways in which livestock make smallholder livelihoods possible, in the face of many pressures and vulnerabilities. They provide an effective and high interest means of savings which can be relatively easily liquidated into cash when needed. Their various roles within social structures, celebrations and particularly marriage allow access to the social capital which is crucial in managing the vulnerabilities so often associated with life in rural East Africa. The draft and transport they supply are essential components of agriculture in general, while their manure provides a source of fertility in the most infertile of areas.

Livestock can only provide these functions if they are permitted to do so by the web of institutions and rules that determine the options available to the poor. Evidence from previous livestock interventions has shown that is the policies and rules (also referred to as institutions) under which livestock keepers operate that determine how well they can support their livelihoods through livestock. Project analysis now confirms, however, that the appropriate policies and institutions are simply absent from the region. Indeed, in some cases, those polices and assumptions that are in place may well hinder the abilities of poorer livestock keepers to survive and thrive. The result is that the enormous potential of livestock as a tool of poverty alleviation goes largely unexploited.

For these reasons the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), comprising Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda, is implementing the IGAD Livestock Policy Initiative (LPI) through the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with the financial support of the European Commission. The overall objective of the IGAD LPI is to enhance the contribution of the livestock sector to sustainable food security and poverty reduction in the IGAD region.

Its purpose is to strengthen the capacity in IGAD, its member states, and other regional organizations and stakeholders, to formulate and implement livestock sector and related policies that sustainably reduce food insecurity and poverty.

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