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Boosting Livelihoods Through Better Livestock

Author: Laura Higham, FAI Farms

We are in the midst of a ‘livestock revolution;’ beef production has more than doubled, and chicken meat production has increased by a factor of 10 since the 1960’s. 1.3 billion people depend on livestock for their livelihood, including one billion of the world’s poorest people. FAI works alongside investors, commercial, NGO and governmental organisations, to help navigate the complex and multifaceted issues in sustainable livestock production and its impact on livelihoods and the environment, including in resource-poor settings.

Boosting Livelihoods Through Better Livestock

Livestock have been linked to human wellbeing and the health of our environment for centuries, but the rising demand is bringing numerous, complex challenges, including environmental degradation, protecting animal health and welfare, and preventing zoonotic diseases and antimicrobial resistance. Livestock are also a unique asset to a farming family, offering a source of income, employment and nutrition, and in some cases providing draft power, fertiliser, fuel, clothing and building materials. Even small amounts of animal protein can contribute substantially to the nutritional profile of diets. Often overlooked is the role that animals play in representing the socio-cultural identity that binds rural farming communities all over the world.

To harness the pro-poor benefits of livestock, an understanding of the primary inputs and services necessary to support sustainable livestock production is required. Basic livestock inputs include quality feed, water and animal health services. Veterinary activities make vital contributions to all stages of livestock production from ‘farm to fork’ by reducing animal diseases and public health risks, improving levels of production, and attaining food quality and safety standards.

Animal health services in Kenya

In collaboration with Sidai Africa, FAI conducted a project in Kenya to evaluate veterinary service provision and farmer perceptions of veterinary services in the Rift Valley region. Sidai is a subsidiary of FARM Africa, a franchise network of over 70 livestock centres across Kenya focused on improving access to quality animal health and agricultural services and products to rural farmers.

The results indicated that staff knowledge and training gaps, and a shortage of cold chain facilities for the storage of vaccines and other medicines exist across the region. However, Sidai outlets offered a more professional and diverse portfolio of livestock services, compared to agrovets (agricultural retailers), pharmacies and dukas (general shops).

Farmers were found to have strong preferences for certain products, and in areas with high levels of illiteracy they would often select medicines with familiar packaging, which may foster the development of drug resistance. Our studies demonstrated strong demand from livestock keepers for accessible, affordable and quality services and products and revealed opportunities for improving the extensive and diverse network of animal health outlets operating in the region.

The Sidai franchise model offers a means of meeting this demand by maintaining a quality workforce with professional oversight able to offer a broad service and product portfolio. By providing farmer training, upholding consistent product quality and affordability, these centers will also act as stewards of our existing portfolio of animal and human medicines.


The provision of basic livestock inputs and services is frequently overlooked on the international development agenda. Private animal health services have the potential to provide greater support to farmers in countries where animals form the backbone of the rural economy. By better understanding the multifunctionality of livestock, we can begin to appreciate the human, animal and environmental benefits of efficient, productive and vibrant livestock farming communities.


Characterising and comparing animal-health services in the Rift Valley, Kenya: an exploratory analysis, Trop Animal Health Prod (2016)
Part I
Part II