Issue 38: July-August 2011 - Livestock

In this issue

Livestock contribute 40 per cent of the global value of agricultural output, and support the livelihoods and food security of almost a billion people according to the 2009 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – The State of Food and Agriculture. It is one of the fastest growing sectors of the agricultural economy. The growth and transformation of the sector offer opportunities for agricultural development, poverty reduction and improved food security.

According to the IFAD Rural Poverty Report 2011, livestock are a valuable risk-mitigating and risk-management asset for poor families. They often serve as collateral for credit, a buffer against shocks and a safety net in times of crisis. Livestock can be sold when families need to cope with increased prices of food and other expenditures, and reduced incomes. Animal products, such as eggs and milk, can be produced, processed and sold throughout the year without seasonal restrictions.

In addition to being an important source of food energy and dietary protein, vitamins and micronutrients, livestock also play an important role in the environment. They consume waste products from crop and food production, help control insects and weeds, produce manure for fertilizing and conditioning fields, and provide draught power for ploughing and transport. Well managed livestock result in lower greenhouse gas emissions and impact on natural vegetative cover of grasslands, pastures and meadows. However, livestock are vulnerable to risks and shocks related to climate, environmental degradation, water scarcity and diseases.

Rural women play an important part in livestock management. However, both women and men face different livelihood opportunities and constraints in managing livestock. These constraints include: poor access to markets, goods, services and technical information; drought and disease; competing resource uses; policies that favour larger-scale producers or external markets; and weak institutions.

According to the IFAD Rural Poverty Report 2011, livestock production in developing countries has
increased rapidly over the past 30 years. There has been substantial growth in the production of meat, eggs and milk. This has resulted from increased numbers of animals and increased yields, in Asia between 3 and 4 per cent per year. Today, production growth has been made possible by cheap inputs (including grains for feeds), technological change and gains in scale efficiency. This has resulted in lower prices for livestock products and stimulated rapidly growing demand among urban consumers.

To meet the growing demand for livestock products, the livestock sector requires appropriate institutions, research and technological innovations, development interventions and governance that reflect the diversity within the sector and the multiple demands placed upon it.

This newsletter provides a few interesting examples of how livestock is being managed in IFAD-supported projects and programmes in the Asia and the Pacific Region.

In Bangladesh, IFAD is supporting mini-hatcheries – a simple technology made from locally-available materials and operated without electricity, usually by women. Edward Mallorie describes the technology as a successful model for improved backyard poultry production.
The crop-livestock-biogas model has been emerging in China, where risks of overgrazing and therefore limited availability of fodder are high. Weijing Wang highlights this model as a way to promote crop production for livestock feeding, followed by waste collection from livestock to produce biogas.

Rearing backyard poultry with low-input technology birds has proved to be a viable means of removing poverty and increasing food security in tribal districts of India. Sachindra Nath Swain and Susanta Nanda share how this is done in the Orissa State.

Guillermo Vila Melo, a livestock expert from Argentina, is one of the many people who participated in a workshop on livestock and rural microfinance in Mongolia. He shares his reflections on this experience and compares it with the Andean Region.

Owning a cow means a lot to rural women in Asia, especially if they are widows. Abdul Qayyum Abbasi tells a story of a poor widow from Pakistan who managed to move herself out of extreme poverty with the help of a livestock scheme supported by IFAD.

Tajikistan is becoming well-known for its mohair made by rural women, thanks to a group of motivated women from Kuraminsk Mountains whose strong vision of reaching international markets came true. Antonio Rota and Roxanna Samii share a story of these women.

Cao Bang, home to H’Mong and other ethnic minorities in Viet Nam, showed the potential to develop cattle rearing as a means of increasing incomes and living standards. Phuong Tien Tan and Rudi Schuetz describe how IFAD and the Government of Luxembourg are working to develop the value chain of H’Mong cows.

There are more similar stories in the Asia and the Pacific Region which we hope to share with you in the future. Please send us any comments to help make this newsletter responsive to your interests and needs.

Martina Spisiakova, Newsletter Coordinator, Asia and the Pacific Division

Mini-hatcheries for village poultry in Bangladesh


Rina Begum and her mini-hatchery


A mini-hatchery is constructed inexpensively from local materials and operated without electricity. It forms a vital component in the development of a model for improved backyard poultry production. The production model involves a series of linked enterprises including poultry breeding, egg laying, hatching, chick rearing and vaccination services.  The operators of these hatcheries are usually poor women, and the enterprise enables them to earn a good income.  

One key to the success of mini-hatcheries (MHs) is skilled operators who are able to produce about three chicks from every four eggs they incubate – a hatching rate of 75 per cent.  The cost of fertile eggs and the price at which chicks are sold are also important factors if the operation is to be profitable. 

MH technology has been known in Bangladesh since the 1970s but had not been widely adopted. At the time that the Micro-Finance and Technical Support Project (MFTSP), supported by IFAD and implemented by the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), was being planned, reports of poor mini-hatchery performance that came from earlier IFAD-supported projects suggested  that MHs were not a practical proposition. They could not compete with large-scale commercial hatcheries or with traditional hatching methods using broody hens. 

The MFTSP (2003-2011) implemented by PKSF, the apex micro-finance agency, through 24 of its partner NGOs,  has had a remarkable success in promoting these hatcheries, with around 170 to 200 now being operated by project group members. This achievement may be attributed to the practical one-month training that takes place during the hatching cycle, together with technical support from partner NGOs and field staff. Overall, the project aimed to reduce poverty for around 360,000 female members of producer organization micro-finance groups by combining micro-finance services and technical support for livestock enterprises.  

Training increases production


A woman showing an egg bed


A study was conducted on the effectiveness of training by Edward Mallorie and Nowsher Sarder as part of IFAD’s Initiative for Mainstreaming Innovation, a three-year initiative to enhance IFAD’s capacity to promote innovations that will have a positive impact on rural poverty. The study gathered data from 32 MH operators, of whom 16 had received formal training and 16 had learned how to operate hatcheries through support from NGO Livestock Technical Assistants (LTA) based in field offices. The average hatching rate was 76 per cent, with over three-quarters achieving a hatching rate of at least 70 per cent. There was little difference between those who had received formal training and those who had not. Those who had been formally trained stated that they had acquired 61 per cent of their skill and knowledge from the training, 28 per cent from the LTA, and the remaining 11 per cent from other sources such as neighbours and relatives. Operators who had not been in a training course relied largely on the LTA, and also made more use of other sources of information. 

Training benefits women


Sand hatchery


MH operations and training benefit women. A relatively high proportion of MH operators are from disadvantaged female-headed households (FHH), especially those who have taken formal training: 38 per cent of these operators are from FHH compared with 19 per cent of the households that have established MHs with no formal training. This suggests that women who head households are more likely to establish an MH if they receive formal training.  Moreover, FHH achieve the same hatching rate of 75 per cent.     

Women MH operators who have had formal training also have a relatively larger role, vis-a-vis their husbands or sons, in managing the MH, taking two thirds of the management role compared with just under half for those who have not had formal training. 

Training increases profitability and investment savvy

The survey also gathered information on the growth and economic performance of MHs. Six specialized duck MHs are considerably larger operations than the chicken MHs (including chicken plus duck MHs). Table 1 shows that the non-trained group made a larger initial investment in their hatcheries, which  suggests that the non-trained group may have greater resources available. However the MHs operated by trained operators have increased their capacity at a faster rate, although the non-trained group still has a larger capacity than the trained group.

Table 1: Investment and capacity of MHs









Investment BDT’000










3 877








4 554








4 180


































18 667








18 000








18 333



US$ 1 = BDT 71 at the time of data collection

The profitability of MH operations is shown in Table 2.  Although MHs with trained operators have slightly lower purchase costs for fertile eggs and a higher sale price for d.o.c., their smaller scale of operation means that chicken MHs with non-trained operators generate a bigger annual profit margin. 

Table 2: Profitability of MH



Chicks per batch

Batch per year

Chicks per year

Egg price BDT

Chick price BDT

Sales per year BDT’000

Margin* per year Tk’000






























































































* margin is calculated as number of chicks sold x (price of chicks less prices of eggs / hatching rate)¸ US$ 1 = BDT 71 at the time of data collection


Hatching bed with duck eggs


On average, chicken MHs generate a margin over egg cost of BDT  33,000 (US$ 444) per year – or BDT 2,700 (US$ 36) per month, which is not an unreasonable amount as a part-time job for a woman who has other household tasks. The duck hatcheries are much larger-scale enterprises and generate sales of about BDT 2 million (US$ 26,900) per year, and probably employ some workers. The margin between the cost of fertile duck eggs (BDT 8.17 = US$ 0.11) and the sale price of duck d.o.c. (BDT 17.67 = US$ 0.24 ) is only 116 per cent of the cost of eggs, compared with 155 per cent for chickens, but this is offset by their greater scale of operation. 
MH operators spend most of their additional income generated on household consumption. The majority (75 per cent) report using MH income for additional family expenditure, and 56 per cent said they spent more on their children’s education. Income was also invested: 28 per cent said they have invested in a model breeder farm (to ensure a supply of fertilized eggs), 22 per cent on buying a cow, 16 per cent on shops/small businesses, and 16 per cent purchased or leased in land.

Table 3: Use of income from MH

Investment of MH profit

Trained and establish MH

Not trained but establish MH








Model breeder farm







Family expenditure







Establishment of small shop







Purchase of cow







Education expenses







Fish farm







Land leasing/purchase














Training, together with follow-up from technical staff, has enabled poor women to become successful operators of MHs. Hatchery technology, at least for chickens, was not known at the village level in Bangladesh, so it can safely be said that successful operation of MHs can be attributed to project training and support. 
Edward Mallorie, Development Consultant

Read more:

Evolution of the Poultry Model - a Pathway out of Poverty by Dolberg F, Mallorie E, Brett N. IFAD 2002
Application of mini-hatchery technology in the Microfinance and Technical Support Project by Rota A, Nahar J, Rahman S M R, Ali Y, Sarwar A, Fattah KA, IFAD, March 2008

‘Crop-livestock-biogas’ model in Gansu, China


Improved forage field (Medicagosativa)


Like other provinces located in north and north-west China, livestock rising is one of the most important sources of livelihoods for local farmers living in Gansu. But with more wealthy people shifting their consumption patterns from grain to meat, the market demand for beef and mutton has been increasing. Seeing farmers’ attempt to increase livestock production, the Government adopted some bans on grazing, as overgrazing can deplete grassland vegetation and in turn destroy the ecosystem. The availability of fodder was therefore limited. To respond to this challenge, IFAD adopted a model called ‘crop-livestock-biogas’. The idea was to promote crop production for livestock feeding, and then collect the waste of livestock for biogas.

Through the South Gansu Poverty-Reduction Programme (2006-2012), whose main goal is to achieve sustainable and equitable poverty eradication for vulnerable rural households living in an environment with limited and deteriorating natural resources, IFAD promotes two kinds of crop production for livestock feeding: forage and corn. IFAD is supporting forage production by providing seeds and fertilizer to farmers, coupled with training on planting, storage and feeding. Regarding corn, the stalks can be used for feeding if they are appropriately treated.  The project is being implemented in ten counties in South Gansu.


Large plastic bag to hold and store corn stalks


Two kinds of forage varieties were introduced: alfa-alfa (Medicagosativa) and sainfoin (Onobrychisviciifolia). The annual production of green forage per hectare was estimated to be 15 MT in 2-3 cuts, higher than the traditional variety as reported by farmers. Non-beneficiary farmers also adopted the new variety, and the cultivation areas almost doubled the project areas. 

IFAD also trained farmers on corn production, using the ‘double rows’ plastic-film technique for mulching. Essentially, the technique consists of covering crops with plastic film, which increases the nitrogen and water utilization efficiency and in turn increases crop production.

Farmers also learned how to prepare corn stalks for feed. They cropped the stalks and the lower quality corn cobs, stepped on them to compact the corn mass, placed them in a plastic bag and then sealed the bag with rope. The product can be well preserved until the winter season. One third of the silage is mixed with  two-thirds straw/corn cobs /forage hay to feed livestock.

Livestock waste and firewood for fuel are the main sources of pollution in rural areas. Before the programme started, farmers discarded the waste directly into the water bodies, making the potable water resources even more limited. Farmers also used to cut trees and corn stalks for fuel, which was harmful to the ecosystem and polluted the air.


Cattle-fattening operation in YM facilities


IFAD started to support collecting manure and channelling it to biodigestors. The technique is simple and practical. The biogas produced was used for cooking and lighting. By last year, the programme had established 3,312 biodigestors, saving trees of 110 hectares of land per year. Furthermore, the by-product of biogas – the effluents (slurry) – was used as fertilizer for crops. Farmers in the programme areas happily reported 10 to 30 per cent increases in corn production by using slurry.

This approach was so promising that the private sector started to support it. Yunfa Meat (YM) is a private meat producer of cattle finishing. It thought the electricity made from biogas could be a good business. Thus it sets up rearing facilities and entered into a special service contract with small producers. According to the contract, farmers can use these rearing facilities without any charge, but the manure collected will belong to the YM enterprise. The YM enterprise uses the manure collected to produce biogas and electricity. The enterprise can also sell them government.

Although this part of activity is beyond the original design of the programme, it shows that the programme has important spill-over effects. It also demonstrates that if an initiative can attract investment from the private sector, it can be more sustainable and has the potential to grow.

Interviews with farmers and workshops with government staff showed that they like the  ‘crop-livestock-biogas’ model and believe that the approach has great potential for scaling up.

Gansu  Programme Management Office Team

Read more:

South Gansu Poverty-Reduction Programme

Backyard poultry farming in tribal districts in India


Map of the programme area


Since 2005, the IFAD-funded Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme has been working in the 30 poorest and most remote blocks of Orissa state of India (in six tribal villages), benefiting 56,180 households in 1,034 villages. Eighty per cent of the households are made up of scheduled tribes (ST) and 15 per cent scheduled castes (SC). About 75 per cent of these families live below the poverty line and 24 per cent are landless. Their main source of livelihoods comes from collecting non-timber forest products and rearing small livestock such as goats and poultry.  IFAD is supporting these tribes in developing backyard poultry farming.


Women with their backyard poultry birds


The main occupation of tribal people living in Orissa is collecting forest products. Goat and sheep rearing, as well as poultry farming, remain part-time activities despite their huge potential for generating income. These activities can also unleash human productivity, encourage women and unemployed youth, and bridge the gap between demand for and production of eggs and meat.

The programme introduced backyard poultry as a livelihoods activity to groups of tribal women belonging to self-help groups. They are trained in basic skills like vaccination and medication to better manage breeding centres. The backyard poultry farming generates additional income to the members and boosts their nutritional standards and overall health, as well as that of their family.

In the poultry sector, there is a great scope to enhance food production through layer and broiler farming. Although Orissa requires 4.8 million eggs per month, the state is able to produce only 3.2 million. This large gap between demand and supply is filled by procuring eggs from the neighbouring states, i.e. Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

Introducing low-input technology birds

Backyard poultry is highly acceptable in tribal areas. Almost 60 per cent of rural and 100 per cent of SC and ST households are rearing backyard poultry in Orissa. Rural backyard poultry is also contributing nearly 30 per cent of national egg production. Yet, it is the most neglected activity in Orissa compared to its neighbouring states. Although most ST households rear backyard poultry, their contribution is minimal. This is because they rear indigenous birds, which are not remunerative in comparison to rearing low-input technology birds, which are dual purpose birds: they lay a good quantity of eggs and the male birds grow quickly. The low-input technology poultry birds are now being introduced by the Animal Husbandry Department of the State Government, with the assistance of the Central Government. Village poultry eggs and meat fetch a much higher price than commercial poultry.

The advantages of dual-purpose low-input technology birds (vanaraja) versus indigenous (desi) birds are as follows:

Supplying day-old chicks

Since day-old chicks are vulnerable to predators in free-range conditions, breeding centres (mother units) with a capacity to rear 1,000 day-old chicks are being established by SHGs with the support of the IFAD-funded programme To date, 47 centres have been established. The programme contributes  INR  167,000 (US$ 3712) per Village Development Committee to establish one mother unit, with the SHGs contributing the balance. Each mother unit will cover 75 families, and each family receives INR 1,500 (US$ 34) from the project to meet the cost of rearing the chicks for three or four weeks, after which they can be provided to beneficiary families and survive in open-range conditions. The birds can be sold for meat after 60-90 days. The hens can be reared for their eggs, which they start laying after 24 weeks. After the egg-laying period, the hens can be sold for meat at a cheaper rate.

Ensuring success


A woman feeding her poultry


To ensure the success of chicken-rearing activities, the programme is covering a range of risks. These include: procuring good-quality one-day-old chicks, assuring availability of chick feed; providing high quality veterinary facilities and paravets; and marketing of the birds during the programme cycle.

The programme envisages an annual income of INR 15,000 (US$ 334) per family for rearing 120 birds  in six cycles at 20 birds per cycle. However, a much higher income reaching to INR 24,000 (US$ 534) is expected if a family rears 40 birds per cycle. The programme expects 80 per cent of the participating households to move above the poverty line permanently by March 2012. This should translate into a 30 per cent reduction in malnutrition among tribal families.

Rearing backyard poultry with low-input technology birds is clearly a viable means of helping eradicate rural poverty and address food insecurity. With minimum investment and extra labour required by rural households, backyard poultry farming could be developed as a rural cottage industry to spur economic development in rural areas.

Sachindra Nath Swain, Livestock Expert and Susanta Nanda, Programme Director, Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme, ST & SC Development Department, Government of Orissa

Read more:

Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme

From the Andes to the Mongolian steppes


Grazing alpacas in the Andes


In May 2011, IFAD organized a workshop on Livestock and Rural Microfinance in Western Asia that took place in Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia. The objective of the workshop was to promote knowledge sharing and south-south cooperation among the staff of IFAD-supported projects and programmes  in Africa, Latin America, the Near East and Asia and the Pacific. One of the participants, Mr Guillermo Vila Melo from Argentina, reflects on his experience in Mongolia and compares it the Andean Region.

Last May, I was invited to participate in the workshop on Livestock and Rural Microfinance in Western Asia, organized by IFAD’s Asia and the Pacific Division and held in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. It was the first time for me, who has been working with camelids for many years and facing challenges related to conservation, the economy and rural people’s livelihoods, to visit such a distant land to discover many common concerns.

After travelling for two days, from Buenos Aires to Ulaan Baatar, I arrived with high expectations since I had never exchanged experiences beyond my continent of origin: Latin America. I easily began to enjoy sharing a workshop with people coming from 12 countries with other cultures, other languages, other ways of perceiving and confronting challenges, although sharing a common passion: to improve the quality of life of people living in contact with natural resources by helping them use those resources in a sustainable manner, for the benefit of the resources and of the rural communities.
My experience


Aymara women (Aymara or Aimara are a native ethnic group in the Andean region of South America; about 2 million live in Bolivia, Peru and Chile)


As an agriculture engineer, specialized in animal production, I develop my activities in the Andean region of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. The area is an arid region with altitudes between 3,800 and 5,000 metres above sea level, with a great thermal amplitude and average annual summer rainfall of 200 mm, occurring in the dry season, mainly in August-September.

There are two native livestock species: llamas and alpacas. Each has different varieties or ecotypes. I also work with wild species, such as vicunas and guanacos, and their sub-species. The native livestock species are docile and are part of a family’s assets, providing fibre and meat to the local communities. The wild species are captured once a year by means of corrals and nets. The animals are then sheared and quickly released, once the excellent fleece is obtained. These fibres are part of what is known as “special fibres” or “fine hair”, together with mohair, cashmere, kiviut, silk, camel hair and yak fibre.

The communities living in these territories are livestock peasants and artisans specialized in textiles. They constantly migrate, similar to the nomads who live in the plains of Mongolia, although their grazing systems are significantly different. With more than 4 million llamas and alpacas, and more than 1 million vicunas and guanacos, the Andean region possesses a highly valuable livestock which is currently under-utilized in its contributions to mitigate climate change, to the textile world of high quality fine fibres, to the meat and leather markets, and other business applications.

To make my workshop presentation clear and understandable, I presented the native livestock and wildlife species as mentioned above. To explain the work we have been carrying out for the last 20 years in our region, I displayed the different products we offer to let the workshops participants experiment with and appreciate their characteristics. It was a very nice experience for them.

It is important to mention that during the last 20 years, IFAD’s Division for Latin America and the Caribbean has invested significant resources to build specialized expertise and to bring these experts together to exchange their traditional knowledge. IFAD has also supported breeders, technicians, artisans and entrepreneurs in the camelid economy to achieve tangible results, as well as co-financed their initiatives and small-scale businesses along with local and national governments, enterprises and other sources of funding.

What I have learned


Mongolian community (nomad shepherds)


There are three main topics that are relevant to my professional work in rural development:

Considering all the lessons and practices we learned, it could be good to share our knowledge with nomad shepherds in Mongolia, especially in relation to the contest methodology we have successfully applied in our projects. We could also share the organizational structures developed in our region, aimed to add value to the raw materials obtained through IFAD-supported projects.

The three mentioned topics have proved to be fundamental for developing realistic and effective rural development ventures in our region, and could be adapted to improve livelihoods of the Mongolian nomad shepherds.



Grazing sheep in Mongolia


Needless to say that, it would have been nice to spend more time with these wonderful people, sharing more concepts and ways of working with technicians and community members. I am pleased to have discovered that there is an endless number of practices and common feelings that could be shared, and that we are not alone in this challenge. I want to thank the hospitality of the people and hosts, as well as those in charge of organizing the event, since I felt secure and free of any inconveniences, making it possible to enjoy every minute of my stay in Mongolia.

Guillermo Vila Melo, Livestock Expert for the Andean region, South American Camelids, Breeding, processing, commercialization, Buenos Aires, Argentina

A healthy cow, a healthy livelihood – one woman's success in Pakistan


Zanib Bibi receiving a cow from the programme


The death of her husband, migration, limited sources of income, illiteracy and no agricultural land forced Zanib Bibi, a widow from District Mirpur AJK, Pakistan, to send her 12-year-old son to work to make a living. The IFAD-supported AJK Community Development Programme is helping her live a respectable life. 

Zanib Bibi is a member of a family that was exiled from a village in Bagam in District Baramula in occupied Kashmir to District Mirpur in Azad Kashmir during the war in 1965. The family is now permanently living in a village about 18 km from Mipur city AJK, Pakistan. The village is situated on the bank of River Jhelum and surrounded by rangeland, which is suitable for open grazing of different types of livestock.

In 1995, Zanib lost her husband in a car accident. They had been married only two years, and Zanib had given birth to their son only a few months before the accident. Her family is very poor and she spent the next ten years in an extremely difficult financial situation, which forced Zanib to send her son to earn an income when he was only ten years old. He earned PKR 250 (US$ 3) per day but only found work 15 days a month, thus earning PKR 3750 (US$ 45) each month. Zanib was a competent seamstress but had no sewing machine or money to be able to purchase one.

In 2007, the IFAD-supported AJK Community Development Programme organized a community organization (CO) in Zanib’s village. She joined the CO and was a regular and active member. In 2009, the programme launched a scheme that provided high-quality cows on a 50-50 share basis. The scheme was lunched with technical assistance from the Livestock Department. Zanib decided to acquire a cow through the scheme. The total price of the Cholastani cow was PKR 40,000 (US$ 465), with the community contributing half the cost.
Zanib sold her cow, which was not a good breed and not in good health, for PKR 18,000 (US$ 209). After adding PKR 2,000 (US $23) she received a better-quality cow from the programme. 

This cow gives 10 litres of milk every day. Zanib’s son sells 9 litres of milk in the market for PKR 55 (US$ 0.63), earning PKR 495 (US$ 5.75) per day. This income enabled Zanib to save money to buy a sewing machine.

She started sewing women’s clothes in her village, charging PKR 200 (US$ 2.33) per piece. On average, she sews 12 items of clothing per month, earning PKR 2,400 (US$ 28). In total, Zanib is now earning on average PKR 17,250 (US$ 200) per month. With such earnings, she is able to live a respectable life.

Abdul Qayyum Abbasi, Publication Officer, AJK Community Development Programme 

Read more:

Tajik women hand-spinning mohair yarns take on the international markets


White Angora goats in Sogd province


For decades, Tajik women have been hand-processing mohair fleece and spun mohair yarns for export to Russia. However, on the highest peak of the Kuraminsk Mountains of Tajikistan, a group of highly motivated women have opened a path to increase their income. The secret? Enlarge markets for their ‘magic’ hand-spun high-quality mohair by engaging with US hand-knitters, an audience that has blossomed with the recent revival of the do-it-yourself philosophy.

Tajikistan is one of the poorest of the former Soviet republics. The population’s livelihood depends on subsistence farming, livestock and remittances. The majority of rural Tajik women have few earning opportunities and rely largely on their husbands, most of whom have to migrate to Russia and Kazakhstan to work as taxi drivers, carpenters or seasonal labourers. In some cases, the men do not return, leaving the women and their children to rely on their relatives for support.

Livestock is one of the main sources of income. In the 20th century, Tajikistan was Russia’s largest Angora goat and mohair producer. Today there are still about 200,000 Angora goats grazing in the northern tip of the country, which produces around 140 tons of mohair that is exported to Russia, China and Turkey. Families with Angora goats spend approximately US$ 19 per animal each year. This includes expenses for pasture use, feed and veterinary care. On average the family earns approximately US$ 23 per goat by selling a kid for US$ 12, 1.5 kilo of mohair for US$ 7.6 and milk for US$ 4.


Raw mohair wool, Sogd province


In 2006, IFAD and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), seeing the potential of the high-quality fibre sector, launched a project to improve mohair production and processing: “Improving Livelihoods of Smallholders and Rural Women through Value-Added Processing and Export of Cashmere, Wool and Mohair”. The project also included also activities to improve the management of goat flocks, in particular feeding, breeding and health.

Tajik mohair is unique. It naturally comes in white, grey, brown and black and has an outstanding lustre and shine. The project has enabled Tajik women to produce high-quality mohair that is much softer and less fuzzy. This was achieved through “hands-on” training sessions and continuous follow-up to improve traditional practices. The product was successfully test-marketed in Wisconsin in 2009 and 2010 under the name of “Mohair Magic”.

In April 2010, Dr Liba Grant, a sociologist working in international development and principal researcher for the ongoing project, visited Ms Tuiguloi i Saidova in her home to buy yarn. Dr Grant related the following story:

“We sat on the floor in her small adobe house decorated with hand-woven wall hangings made by her grandmother. The apricot trees were blooming outside and we could hear the mountain stream rushing though her yard.  She made us Tajik plov, fried rice with carrots and meat, and sambusa, a pastry filled with herbs harvested from the slopes of her mountain.  It was delicious.  She prepared about 2 kg of yarn, for which we paid her 550 somoni [US$ 125].

“Her neighbour stopped over to see who was visiting, and learned that she had just sold us yarn.  He asked how much we had paid.  He thought he had misunderstood Tuigoloi’s answer:  55 somoni?  She corrected him: 550.  He picked up a skein and looked at her in disbelief.  ‘Impossible,’ he said.  She just smiled and showed him her money.  ‘I am going to start fixing up our house,’ she said.


Tajik woman spin course mohair wool on an electric spinner in Sogd province


“Tuiguloi is pleased with her earnings. ‘This is the opportunity I have hoped for all my life,’ she told me.  The women benefiting from the project have seen their income levels increase 20 times over. As a result they now occupy a prominent place in their households and communities.”

Building on this fruitful experience, in 2009 IFAD and ICARDA launched a new project focusing on marketing aspects and providing capacity building along the entire value chain.

“The new project has helped women to organize themselves in producers’ groups. Thanks to the training they received, they are now able to sort and grade the fibre. At the same time they are developing their marketing strategies and experimenting with innovative products such as mohair carpets”, says Antonio Rota, IFAD’s Senior Technical Adviser on Livestock and Farming Systems.

The IFAD-ICARDA projects have helped the Tajik women gain access to the North American market, and they are now seeking to make a dent in the European market. At IFAD we know that women never fail to make the best of what they have to improve their family livelihood. The Tajik women are a perfect example. Having started with almost nothing, today they have paved the way for themselves to earn much higher incomes and to achieve a degree of hard-won independence, self-confidence and self-reliance. They are indeed the agents of change.

Antonio Rota, Senior Technical Adviser on Livestock and Farming Systems
Roxanna Samii, Manager,Web, Knowledge and Internal Communications

Read more:

Mohair Processing and Marketing: Khodzhand site, Tajikistan  
Tajikistan's "mohair magic"
Adventure yarns

Developing the H’Mong cow value chain in Cao Bang, Viet Nam


Cattle market in Ha Quang District, Cao Bang Province


Cao Bang province, located in the north-east of Viet Nam, is home to 520,000 people comprised of several ethnic minorities including Dao, H’Mong, Lô lô, Nùng, Sán Chỉ and Tày. The province has the potential to develop animal husbandry, especially cattle rearing. IFAD and the Government of Luxembourg are working to develop the value chain of H’Mong cows to improve market channels and the productivity of poor people, and hence their incomes and living standards.

Cao Bang is one of the poorest provinces in Viet Nam, with poor people accounting for over 38 per cent of the population. Eighty per cent of the poor people live in rural areas. Cao Bang has 130,000 head of cattle – about 30 per cent of these are owned by the H’Mong people. Notably, H’Mong cows are very big – the bull weighs 400-500 kg and the cow 200-250 kg. The H’Mong people raise their herds using natural grass and maize feed, which produces a delicious, specially flavoured beef.

The IFAD-supported Developing Business with the Rural Poor Project (DBRP) in Cao Bang province is being implemented in 50 communes of ten districts. The main objective of the project, which started in 2008, is to achieve sustainable and equitable rural poverty reduction. The Government of Luxembourg, through the Lux-Development project VIE/029, provides technical assistance, with a special focus on strengthening local actors and institutions.

The project is promoting the rearing of H’Mong cattle and coordinates with provincial line agencies including the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Farmer’s Union and Women’s Union to introduce supportive activities to further develop the H’Mong cow value chain.

In 2008, four H’Mong cow Common Interest Groups (CIGs)  were piloted in Ha Quang District. Currently there are 86 H’Mong cow CIGs established in ten districts. Members of the CIGs received technical training on topics such as: cattle for fattening, planting VA 06 grass (elephant grass), making fermented feed as a reserve for winter, good hygiene, and prevention of diseases. After applying these new techniques, the time taken for cow fattening was reduced from six to three months.

Farmers used to make a profit of VND 2-3 million (US$ 97-146) from selling one cow. Now, after only two months of fattening a cow, some farmers make a profit of VND 6 million (US$ 292) per cow.

The project has organized many workshops to link these cow CIGs with the market. In April 2009, it introduced H’Mong beef to Big C Supermarket in Hanoi, whose customers have appreciated the quality of the beef. The collective trademark of H’Mong beef is being developed with support from the project.

In addition, the project is working with DARD to support the Le Thanh Company in building a slaughterhouse with a capacity of 30 cows per day. This will enable H’Mong beef to be freshly delivered to supermarkets, restaurants, hotels and other distribution channels in Hanoi and surrounding areas. The Le Thanh Company has committed to purchase the H’Mong cow at market price to benefit almost 2,000 households.

A three-month cash advance of up to 50 per cent of each cow’s value is provided – allowing enough time for fattening and selling it to the company. The H’Mong cattle have reached 10,000 in number, accounting for 10 per cent of the total cattle in Cao Bang province. The H’Mong Association has been established, with 25 H’Mong cow CIGs as members. The H’Mong Association will link the CIGs with larger traders and help provide the right conditions to achieve sustainable cow development.  

Phuong Tien Tan, Director of DBRP Cao Bang and Rudi Schuetz, Technical Adviser, Lux-Development project VIE/ 029

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IFAD Executive Board, 13-15 September 2011, IFAD Headquarters, Rome



Implementation support mission – Char Development and Settlement Project, 5-16 August 2011 (tentative)


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Inception mission – Coastal Communities Development Project, 27 June – 15 July 2011


Review mission – Sub-Regional Strategic Opportunities Paper (SRESOP), July 2011


Review mission – Sub-Regional Strategic Opportunities Paper (SRESOP), July 2011




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SRESOP review mission – July 2011


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