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For smallholder farmers, a way out of poverty

Livestock contribute to the farming operations of more than 800 million poor smallholders. Rural households can improve their livelihoods by raising a wide variety of animals: cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs, poultry, camels, llamas, alpacas, horses, donkeys, rabbits and even bees.

It is estimated that the demand for livestock products will more than double over the next 20 years, due to urbanization, economic growth and a change in consumption patterns in developing countries. Livestock is one of the fastest growing agricultural subsectors in developing countries, accounting for about 30 per cent of agricultural GDP.

Yet 85 per cent of livestock keepers around the world remain poor. Smallholder farmers will need to become more productive, efficient and environmentally sustainable to meet the requirements of growing market demand, largely from urban areas. These requirements relate to food quality, food safety and consistency of supply.

A game changer for rural families

Small and large livestock can make a huge difference to women and men's incomes while strengthening household food and nutrition security and building resilience.

Livestock provide a wide range of nutritious, protein-rich foodstuffs, such as eggs, meat, milk, and honey, which can be processed into a variety of products. This contributes to the diversification of diets and generates income. They are a source of leather, pelts, and fibres such as wool, mohair and cashmere. Manure is used as fertilizer for crops and as fuel for cooking. It can be composted or used for the production of methane in biogas digesters. Finally, livestock provide draught power for crop cultivation, and transportation for people and goods to market.

Poor rural families with no access to financial services often use livestock as a form of asset management, investing in animals when they have extra money, and selling them when they need cash or other necessities. This strengthens the resilience of those families in the face of economic and climate shocks, enabling them to plan for the future.

Maximizing livestock’s potential

IFAD supports small farmers in making the most of their livestock by protecting animal health, boosting productivity and sustainability, and helping to link farmers to profitable markets.

IFAD-funded projects involve technology transfer, training, credit for restocking, animal health services delivery, feed and breed improvement, and best husbandry practices. Through our investments, smallholder producers and pastoralists gain added value from their livestock.

Over the years, IFAD has developed a wide range of processes and tools to improve the design and implementation of our livestock projects. We work closely with governments and partners to scale up successful livestock interventions so that we can reach larger numbers of smallholders and improve production systems at the farm level.


Cashing in on cows

The IFAD-supported Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme (SDCP) shows how investing in agriculture  can transform lives and rural communities.




Integral Strengthening Programme for the Camelid Value Chain in the Bolivian High Plateau (Pro-Camélidos)
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Agricultural Sector Development Programme - Livestock: Support for Pastoral and Agro-Pastoral Development
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Livestock and Access to Markets Project
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Contact us

For questions please contact Antonio Rota,

Lead Technical Specialist – Livestock,