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«FAO ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND HEALTH paper ADDING VALUE TO LIVESTOCK DIVERSITY Marketing to promote local breeds and improve livelihoods Cover ...»

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The interventions included four types of activities: improving animal production; processing; organizing; and building a value chain. Of these, improving animal production was part of only two of the cases. The focus of all of the cases was more on processing the product, organizing local people, and building a value chain to link livestock keepers with the market. Accordingly, most of the initiatives worked with groups of processors – spinners, weavers, dairy staff, transporters, designers, traders, etc., rather than (or as well as) the livestock keepers themselves. This shows that for marketing projects, it is necessary to work with people throughout the value chain, and that the livestock keepers, at the beginning of the chain, may not be the first or most important point of contact, even if they and their animals are intended as the main beneficiaries.

The majority of the cases involved a champion – a person or organization with a special interest in promoting the enterprise and making sure it works. Individual champions included the founder/owner of a company, a local member of parliament, and committed individuals; organizational champions included NGOs, government agencies, research institutes and donor organizations.

xii Research was vital to the success of most of the cases. It included research on the existing production process (often done in a participatory way with livestock keepers and other local people), products (usually done by specialist research bodies), and markets (done by marketing organizations and consultants).

Most of the enterprises introduced new technology – sometimes expensive and sophisticated (a new factory), and sometimes cheap and simple (combs to separate fine cashmere from coarser fibres). In some cases, the cheaper, simpler technology was more effective than the expensive large-scale investments.

At least four types of training were provided: increasing or improving production (such as hygienic milk collection), processing to add value to products (such as spinning, weaving, sorting and grading), organization (group formation and cooperative management), and enterprise development (including business and marketing skills).

Building some form of institution featured in all eight cases, but the type of institution varied widely: a loose, spontaneous network; production and marketing groups; coordination bodies; large, formal cooperatives; and a private company. Most of these institutions had specialist functions and were active only at one point in the chain, though the larger ones had multiple functions and covered most or all of the chain. None of the institutions attempted to manage all aspects of the chain.

Building institutions is particularly difficult in pastoralist areas because of many factors, including mobile lifestyles and a suspicion of outsiders. Institutions that build on existing social structures, such as kinship ties or trading relationships, are likely to be more successful than those that attempt to start from scratch.

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Enterprises based on local breeds build on local resources and initiatives. They are likely to be cheaper and more sustainable than enterprises based on imported breeds and technologies.

A value chain based on local breeds can generate new sources of income, such as tourism or handicrafts. This income benefits local people directly.

An enterprise based on local breeds is likely to be pro-poor and pro-women, since it is normally the poorer livestock keepers and women who maintain the breeds or who have the skills to process the products.

A value chain based on local breeds builds the skills of local people and empowers them in relation to the outside world.

Livestock breeds can stimulate enthusiasm among their supporters like few other products. Such enthusiasm may be vital for marketing efforts to succeed.


Use existing resources. The initiative should be based on existing resources: the livestock breed, natural resources and human resources, and use the environment in a sustainable way.

Identify a suitable entry point. To conserve a breed or benefit livestock keepers, it may be better to focus on some aspect of the chain other than working directly with livestock keepers. For example, developing an urban-based processing industry to increase demand for the raw materials may be the best way to benefit livestock keepers (or conserve the breed).

Start small. The initiative should invest first in human capital and at a small scale, rather than in costly infrastructure. If the activity works, it should then seek more capital investment.

Do the research. It should be based on a thorough understanding of the production system, the product and the market. That means studying the breed and its characteristics, the livestock keepers and their production system, the range of potential products, and the potential customers for the products.

Identify special characteristics of the breed. The initiative should seek ways to market products that reflect these characteristics: by creating new products, refining existing traditional products, or finding new markets for existing products.

Find a viable business model. The initiative should generate income for all actors in the value chain.

Focus on quality. It should emphasize the need to maintain quality. A niche product can command higher prices only if it is superior to alternative products.

Build capacity. The initiative should stimulate the creation of strong local institutions and train people in technical and management skills.

Don’t depend too much on outsiders. The initiative may require significant support from outsiders over the medium term, but should not depend on expertise or funding from outsiders over the long term.

Ensure long-term demand. The product chosen should be one where demand is likely to grow over the long term.


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Niche marketing can provide opportunities for sustainable production in marginal areas and can improve the livelihoods of livestock keepers and people involved in the processing and trade of products. It may especially benefit women and the poor. It can also be a tool for conserving breeds.

Efforts to promote niche marketing may help local people connect to markets for the first time, giving them skills that they can use in exploring other markets and developing other enterprises.

Niche markets may allow actors early in the value chain – livestock keepers and smallscale processors – to capture a greater share of the end-value than in a mass market. This will make it attractive for these actors to continue and expand their businesses.

Niche marketing is by nature relatively small-scale. For large numbers of producers, it cannot replace the need to produce products for a wider, mass market. But for local breeds, it may be possible to find a match between the qualities of the breed, the features of a particular product, and the demands of a specific market. Making this match will help conserve the breed as well as provide a livelihood for people involved in the value chain.

IntroductionIlse Köhler-Rollefson and Paul Mundy

Livestock production is booming. It already accounts for 40% of the world’s agricultural gross domestic product, and livestock production is the fastest-growing sub-sector of agriculture (FAO 2009). Global meat and milk production are expected to double in the first half of the 21st century.

Much of this growth has been through large-scale production systems, often managed by large companies and raising thousands of animals (millions in the case of poultry) under intensive, controlled conditions. But such “factory farms” and large-scale ranches bring with them a catalogue of food-security and environmental problems. Growing animal feed takes about a third of the globe’s arable area, using land that could be used to grow crops for human consumption. Keeping large numbers of genetically similar animals together facilitates disease outbreaks and encourages farmers to use more and more antibiotics.

Overgrazing results in soil erosion and biodiversity loss. Effluent from huge feedlots pollutes streams and groundwater. Cows belch out greenhouse gases that warm the planet (Steinfeld et al. 2006).


Small-scale producers and pastoralists offer an alternative. They produce a range of food (meat, milk, eggs), products (hides, wool, dung), and services (transport, land preparation), often in a more environmentally friendly way than large-scale operations. They raise many of their animals on land that cannot be used to grow crops: along roadsides and field boundaries, on fallow land, and in areas that are too dry or wet, too cold or hot, or too steep and rocky for cropping. The animals live off natural vegetation or crop by-products and do not compete with humans for cereals. They recycle waste products such as crop residues and kitchen scraps, fertilize arable soil for the next season’s crop, and produce dung that millions use as cooking fuel.

These livestock produce greenhouse gases, to be sure, but most of these gases would result anyway even without grazing: after all, wild herbivores, termites and other decomposers also convert vegetation into carbon dioxide, without producing the meat and milk that people need.

Small-scale livestock production and pastoralism are economically important. The livelihoods of about one billion poor people depend on livestock. About 70% of the world’s 880 million rural poor people who live on less than US $1 per day are at least partially dependent on livestock for their livelihoods. For more than 200 million smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America, livestock are the main source of income, and for about 120 million pastoralists worldwide, livestock production is the principal source of livelihood.

Many of these producers raise animals mainly for subsistence. Many others, however, sell all or part of their livestock produce. But they face enormous hurdles in doing so. Many Adding value to livestock diversity live in remote areas, devoid of infrastructure such as electricity, roads and cooling facilities, and far from services such as extension advice, markets and veterinary care. Support systems are typically geared to large-scale producers or intensive production. Dairies say it is too costly to collect small amounts of milk from small-scale producers, or complain it is impossible to ensure the quality of their milk. Abattoirs may automatically grade pastoralists’ animals lower than equivalent animals raised under intensive conditions. Livestock keepers themselves are often poorly organized. For pastoralists, unpredictable rainfall, scattered grazing, a mobile lifestyle, and cultural values favouring large herds make it hard for them to supply a market on a reliable basis.

Efforts to ensure that poor and marginalized livestock keepers benefit from the enormous potential of livestock have had a depressing record. Most attempts to enable livestock keepers to participate in the market have focused on raising their production by introducing “superior germplasm”, i.e. replacing or upgrading existing, locally adapted breeds with high-yielding, exotic animals. But these exotic animals are demanding: without intensive care, ample supplies of good feed and regular veterinary attention, they fail to grow, produce milk or lay eggs. Many farmers cannot afford to provide such ideal conditions. Many animals sicken and die, leaving their owners poorer.

At the same time, increases in production lead to lower prices for livestock products, squeezing out small, uncompetitive livestock keepers. Only ever-larger farmers can stay in business. This has been called the “treadmill phenomenon” (Röling 2009). In North America and Europe, livestock production has become highly concentrated in a few hands.

If developing countries follow this trend, this will have dire consequences for the poor.

Small-scale livestock keepers and pastoralists in these countries need ways to remain competitive if they are to stay in business.


Many of the animals kept by small-scale livestock keepers and pastoralists are local breeds.

These are vital to food security and livelihoods. Under better conditions, they may not produce as much as their high-yielding relatives, but in the harsh environments where they developed, they can produce under conditions where other breeds cannot survive. They are less prone to fall prey to diseases, and are a low-risk proposition for livestock keepers.

Many have unique traits, such as disease resistance and drought tolerance, and represent an important source of genetic diversity that animal breeders can use in responding to pest and disease outbreaks and climate change. They are also integral parts of their environment that help sustain biodiversity. Many play a central role in the cultures of the people who keep them.

Since livestock were first domesticated 12 000 years ago, more than 7 000 breeds of livestock have been developed (FAO 2007b, p. 7). Many of these breeds are local: they have been adapted to a specific habitat and shaped, often over centuries, by the cultural preferences of a particular community or ethnic group. Examples are the Boran cattle (raised by the Borana people of northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia), the Garut sheep (raised in the mountains of West Java and used for fighting), and the Nari cattle raised by pastoralists in India.

Local breeds contrast with “international” or exotic, high-performing breeds, which Introduction 3 were produced through intensive selection for very specific traits, often with the use of biotechnology. Examples of such breeds are black-and-white Holstein-Friesian dairy cattle, Large White pigs, and Rhode Island Red chickens.

An alarming trend is the disappearance of large numbers of local livestock breeds.

An estimated 209 breeds of cattle, 180 breeds of sheep, and 40 breeds of chickens have become extinct. In all, some 11% of mammalian breeds and 2% of avian breeds are thought to be extinct. The loss of such breeds continues: some 210 cattle breeds and 179 sheep breeds are classified as “critical” or “endangered” (FAO 2007b, p. 39).

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