Helping smallholders break into high-value livestock markets

Livestock sellers in Mozambique

Livestock sellers in Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

Manage food safety while safe-guarding the livelihoods
of small-scale producers and traders.

Obtain evidence of the comparative risks food safety
regulations present to livestock livelihoods
as well as public safety.

Enable many more poor people to profit
from the dynamic growing markets fuelled
by the Livestock Revolution.

Millions of small-scale livestock producers and traders in developing countries could climb out of poverty by taking advantage of the explosive growth in demand for livestock products in developing countries. This Livestock Revolution, caused by rising populations, incomes and urbanization, has created new market opportunities for livestock products, particularly in formal domestic and export markets. Compared to traditional markets, these high-value markets provide farmers with higher prices, greater diversity of sales destinations, and more opportunities for future growth.

Participation in these markets, however, requires adherence to safe production techniques. Sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations pose increasing obstacles to small-scale livestock producers seeking access to high-value livestock markets. Such regulations require, for example, that farmers maintain disease-free animals and meet increasing stringently food safety and quality standards for processed meat and other livestock products.

Small-scale players in livestock enterprises have difficulty meeting these requirements. They may lack access to production technologies required or to information about end-market demands. Poor infrastructure separates them from growing markets. And public policies in general favour large producers and market agents over small ones.

These constraints can create barriers to breaking into high-value markets. The latter are increasingly dominated by larger, vertically integrated producers with better access to technologies, management and capital. Small-scale livestock owners and sellers need pragmatic and cost-effective options that reduce these barriers.

We are looking to partner other organizations to assess the impacts of these increasingly stringent food safety regulations and high quality standards on the poor, including small-scale livestock producers, employees, consumers, traders and service and input providers. We want to determine how much these people would benefit from complying with these regulations as well as the costs of their doing so. We would like to investigate alternative regulations and standards that appear to meet consumer as well as safety demands in developing countries while helping these countries achieve their poverty reduction goals. We would like to explore public-private partnerships, vertical coordination mechanisms and other innovative organizational models that might promote smallholder involvement in high-value markets.

We are also looking to out-scale technologies, strategies and policies that have already improved smallholder regulatory compliance. There are examples in several developing-country setting of small-scale producers and sellers breaking into high-value livestock markets. Some of these are presented in a report by ILRI and the Pro-Poor Livestock Policy Initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, An appropriate level of risk: Balancing the need for safe livestock products with fair market access for the poor. This report describes successful developing-country livestock exporting schemes and draws pragmatic lessons and replicable strategies from the case studies. And research has also been successful in helping the poor meet food quality and safety standards in domestic markets. ILRI and its national partners in Kenya, for example, conducted some research on the public health risks posed by traditional milk marketing and then developed a strategy for training and certifying small-scale milk traders in hygiene and related matters. The East and Central Africa Programme for Agricultural Policy Analysis is now scaling out this program across East Africa.

Specific current ILRI-partner projects in this area include the following.

  • We are¬†characterizing the actors that affect SPS issues as well as quantifying the impacts of specific interventions along the value chain, paying close attention to feedback among actors along that chain. We are assessing the potential role of public-private partnerships and collective action in alleviating SPS-based barriers to markets.
  • We have integrated epidemiological, multi-market and general equilibrium models and run them to determine the impacts of policies and regulations on transboundary diseases such as foot-and-mouth and Rift Valley fever. We are refining these models for comparing the livelihood impacts of alternative strategies for controlling avian influenza.
  • We are developing evidence-based methods for assuring food safety in the informal food markets, where most poor people buy and sell livestock products. We are employing risk analyses, which, when appropriately adapted and coupled with analyses of food safety demand, may be a reliable way to manage food safety while safe-guarding the livelihoods of small-scale producers and traders. We inform policymakers and other stakeholders in livestock food safety issues of the results of our risk analyses so that they can better judge how alternative regulations will affect different groups in society.
  • We are conducting action research with national partners and non-governmental organizations in Kenya and northeastern India to pilot-test technological, certification and organizational options likely to enhance the participation of small-scale market agents in domestic milk, meat and live animal markets. This project is applying an innovation systems approach to risk analyses to facilitate joint learning and judicious, research-based, assessments of these options.

We believe new approaches to research into pro-poor livestock marketing can generate big benefits for small-scale entrepreneurs. New arrangements can provide better input services to smallholders and help them compete with larger producers. And there is great potential for many more poor people to enter the work force as market agents and employees along the livestock market chains.

ILRI is interested in finding better ways to draw lessons applicable in many developing-country settings and to build technical capacity in market analysis and SPS issues within our national partner organizations. We are also interested in partnering development and regulatory agencies that increase smallholder participation in high-value livestock markets.

Key elements of ILRI’s current work in this area are conducted jointly with the International Food Policy Research Institute through an ILRI-IFPRI Joint Program on Livestock Markets. This program typically partners civil society and other groups expert in advocacy work to ensure that the research outcomes significantly benefit the poor.

With its international, regional and national partners, ILRI is seeking investor interest in developing new work in the following specific areas and locations where there is demonstrated demand by clients and need by poor livestock producers and marketers.

  • Determining animal health constraints to smallholder participation in livestock export markets in Southern Africa.
  • Reducing barriers to smallholder participation in growing regional and local markets for cattle and small ruminants in West Africa.
  • Assessing the risks of, and potential mitigation strategies for, bird flu spreading within the poultry markets of Southeast Asia.
  • Integrating action research with risk analyses to develop pragmatic options for supporting small-scale agents operating in the dynamic traditional milk markets of South Asia.
  • Determining organizational and technical options that help smallholder pig producers to meet increasing quality standards in Southeast Asian markets.
  • Integrating technical and institutional options to support smallholder participation in growing dairy markets in Central America.

ILRI is looking for intellectual as well as financial partners with whom to conduct this work. If you are interested in supporting or working with us to help small-scale livestock operators comply with increasingly stringent SPS regulations and quality standards, please contact any of the ILRI staff below.

Steve Staal: ILRI director of enhancing markets theme, Nairobi,, +254 20 422 3400

Bruce Scott: ILRI director of partnerships and communications, Nairobi,, +254 20 422 3205


7 thoughts on “Helping smallholders break into high-value livestock markets

  1. What is the status of this initiative. I notice that practically all the contacts above have left ILRI. Would like to know if this is till incubating,on-going or completed.

  2. Am currently an Msc student in Agriculture Information Connunication Management and am interested in working with ILRI.Can I secure an internmship?

  3. Traditional milk markets are a main component of the dairy innovation system in India and hardly 16% of the marketed milk in India is only through organized channels. I am interested to work with ILRI as an intellectual partner in the area, “Integrating action research with risk analyses to develop pragmatic options for supporting small-scale agents operating in the dynamic traditional milk markets of South Asia”.

    Presently I am working as a Principal Scientist in the Dairy Extension Division of National Dairy Research Institute, karnal, India.

  4. The research study is poorly designed. The main cause appears to be a set of heroic assumptions on smallholder endowments and trade barriers that impede market capitalisation using livestock and their products. If the study is still going on mid course corrections can still be effected to benefit the smallholder owners.

    • @Prof George: This brief is several years old. Please check our current news on the main blog page. Thanks for your thoughts! Please keep sending them.

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