Livestock in India: New publications

ILRI has produced two new publications on livestock in India focusing on their role in poverty alleviation and opportunities and challenges for smallholder livestock producers

In India, underprivileged families account for about one fourth of the population and contribute a major part of livestock production. Livestock are central to their livelihoods and culture. ‘Livestock in the livelihoods of the underpriviledged communities in India: A review’, is an extensive review of formal and grey literature addressing the premise that a good understanding by the research and development community of the role of livestock in the livelihoods of the underprivileged and their production and marketing systems is needed to guide effective research and development aiming at alleviating poverty.

The review covers cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, pigs and poultry and their output, input, risk asset and social functions when kept by India’s underprivileged families. It examines the factors affecting where and how the livestock are managed and concludes that to improve the livelihoods of underprivileged families through livestock, inter-disciplinary action-oriented research should target communities in contrasting agro-ecozones in central, eastern and north-eastern India with priority given to small stock, specifically goats, pigs and backyard poultry. It is recommended that the research should start by ensuring a shared understanding between research-for-development teams and the underprivileged communities of the preferences of the communities for specific types of livestock, their perceptions (particularly of the women) about the roles and functions of the livestock in livelihood strategies, and what, from their perspective, constitutes improvement. Subsequently, action-oriented participatory research would identify and address constraints to, and opportunities for, improving livestock-based productivity and profitability and the non-market functions of livestock.

The recommended approach will require a paradigm shift from conventional animal-level research to people-centred, participatory and holistic methods in iterative research-for-development programmes that are interdisciplinary, multi-institutional and, ideally, multi-locational to facilitate cross-site lesson learning.

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Livestock in the livelihoods of the underpriviledged communities in India: A review

Correct citation: Rangnekar D.V. 2006. Livestock in the livelihoods of the underprivileged communities
in India: A review. ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya. 72 pp.

‘Smallholder livestock production in India: Opportunities and challenges’, is the proceedings of a two-day international workshop jointly organized by the National Centre for Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NCAP) of the India Council of Agricultural Research and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The first section provides a comprehensive overview of the livestock sector in India and brings out explicitly the importance of livestock in improving the wellbeing of the rural poor. Livestock production in India has been growing faster than crop production, and thus contributed towards sustaining agricultural growth. The growth in livestock production has been driven firstly by increased animal numbers and secondly by higher productivity.

Agricultural growth, in general, is poverty-reducing, but growth in livestock production is more pro-poor than a similar growth in crop production as livestock wealth is more equitably distributed than land. However, small-scale livestock producers are constrained by lack of access to markets, credit, inputs, technology and services which may deter them from taking advantage of the opportunities resulting from the expanding demand for animal food products in the domestic and global markets.  Low levels of public investment in the livestock sector is detrimental to the interests of millions of poor livestock producers. Value addition to livestock production is not encouraging and may constrain the growth of livestock production, especially amongst small-scale producers. The publication argues for a conducive policy environment to enable poor households to secure livestock assets, inputs and technology and to improve their access to output markets.

The second section provides a synoptic view of the changing global environment and draws lessons for India and other developing countries to transform livestock production to the benefit of the poor. The main messages from the global review are:
•   It is critical for livestock researchers to understand how livestock systems are changing, whether in the  systems in more marginal areas where change is slow or in the rapidly changing   systems which are responding to market demand for livestock and livestock products;
•   To achieve sustainable and equitable livestock sector growth in the different systems, it is important that  technology, policy and institutional innovations are combined; and
•   Beyond broader livestock sector growth, specific attention ;  ; will need to be paid to how the poor can benefit from the emerging opportunities, which will require targeted and intelligent public-sector research and development interventions.

Read an excerpt from ‘Smallholder livelihood production in India: Opportunities and challenges’

The Livestock Revolution is expected to make a significant contribution towards improving nutritional security and to reducing rural poverty. The rural poor have little access to land and thus there are limited opportunities for them in crop production. On the other hand, livestock wealth is more equitably distributed compared to land, and the expanding demand for animal food products generates significant opportunities for the poor to escape poverty through diversifying and intensifying livestock production.

Livestock contribute over 25% to the agricultural sector output, up from 16% in 1970/71. In absolute terms, their contribution increased from 256 billion Indian Rupees (INR) in 1970/71 to INR 934 billion in 2002/03 (at 1993–94 prices) at an annual rate of 4.3%, higher than the growth in the agricultural sector as a whole (2.8%). Notable growth occurred in dairy and poultry production. Milk production, that had been hovering around 20 million tonnes in 1950s and 1960s, increased to 88 million tonnes in 2003/04. Between 1980/81 and 2003/04 production of eggs increased from 10 billion to 40.4 billion, and of poultry meat from 0.1 million tonnes to over one million tonnes. Besides food production, livestock make important contributions to crop production by supplying draught power and dung manure.
Rapid growth in livestock production is desirable not only to sustain agricultural growth, but also to reduce rural poverty especially when a majority of the land holdings are small.

58% of rural households have land holding of less than 2 ha and another 32% have no access to land. Numbers of households with little or no access to land is likely to increase due to further subdivision of land holdings. Livestock are thus an important source of income for smallholders and the landless. Products like milk and eggs are steady source of cash income, and live animals are important natural assets for the poor, which can be easily liquidated for cash during emergency.

Smallholders and landless together control 75% of the country’s livestock resources, and are capable of producing at a lower cost because of availability of sufficient labour with them. Evidence shows that smallholders obtain nearly half of their income from livestock (Shukla and Brahmankar 1999; Birthal et al. 2003). Growth in livestock sector is thus more pro-poor than growth in other subsectors of agricultural economy.

Nevertheless, there is an apprehension whether smallholder livestock producers can take advantage of the emerging opportunities. Productivity of livestock is low, and smallholders are constrained by a lack of access to markets, capital, inputs, technology and services.
Failure to address these constraints may depress domestic production and lead to an
import upsurge. There is also a possibility of emergence of large landholder commercial production systems especially around urban areas to cater to the increasing demand for animal food products there. Smallholders though are efficient even under low-input conditions; economies of scale in production and marketing in commercial production may erode their competitive advantage.


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Smallholder livestock production in India: Opportunities and challenges
(Large 3.25MB PDF file)

Correct citation: Birthal PS, Taneja VK and Thorpe W. (eds). 2006. Smallholder livestock
production in India: Opportunities and challenges. Proceedings of an ICAR–ILRI international
workshop held at National Agricultural Science Complex, DPS Marg, Pusa, New Delhi 110
012, India, 31 January–1 February 2006. NCAP (National Centre for Agricultural Economics
and Policy Research)—ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), New Delhi, India,
and ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute), Nairobi, Kenya. 126 pp.

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