Animals: a key factor in development cooperation and the fight against poverty

Article, 03.10.2014

Five SDC projects concerning animals

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), around 752 million poor people keep livestock. They offer protection against food insecurity, are an important source of income and help rural populations in particular to better withstand global risks such as climate change, natural disasters and wars. Animals are therefore one of the key factors in development cooperation and in the fight against poverty.  We present five SDC-supported projects that benefit animals as well as people.

A boy and a dromedary in northern Kenya

1. Kenya: safeguarding livelihoods through water for livestock

Around 80% of the population of northern Kenya depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The region is arid or semi-arid and is frequently ravaged by drought. Many animals perished during the drought and famine of 2011, as the distances to water points were too great. The Dadaab refugee camp near the Somali border, with its population of some 400,000, places a great additional strain on an already fragile environment and scarce water resources.

In cooperation with the local population, this project develops strategies to cope with recurrent crises and to find sustainable solutions for water scarcity. Another objective is to reinforce the Merti aquifer in the north-east of Kenya – the main underground water source of the region – in order to help the approximately 35,000 people in Garissa and Isiolo counties to better withstand droughts and to safeguard their livelihoods.

In the Horn of Africa the SDC also supports Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (VSF; Veterinaries without Borders) with projects aimed at strengthening the resilience of rural communities to withstand drought, climate change and fluctuating food prices. In the north-east of Kenya, VSF distributes camels and goats to farmers who have lost livestock to drought, in order to enable them to make a fresh start. Camels and goats are more suited than other livestock to life in areas where water is scarce. The farmers are also trained by VSF to learn how to care for camels.

Project description: «Water for Livestock in Garissa and Isiolo Counties, Northern Kenya»

Project description: «Camel and goat distribution as adaptation to the changing climate»

2. Mongolia: healthy animals, healthy people

Camels, yaks, sheep and cattle: around a quarter of Mongolians rely on animals for their food and livelihood. Breeding livestock is an important part of Mongolian culture and generates approximately 80% of total revenue in the agriculture sector. Animals' health is therefore of great importance.

The Animal Health Project (AHP), supported by Switzerland, is based on measures to strengthen and improve the efficiency of the national system for the safeguarding of animal health.

  • National veterinary system with international standards: the AHP provides support with the drafting of animal health laws, in order to bring them into line with international standards. Further training courses and partnerships with Swiss centres of excellence are also provided through the AHP.
  • Inspection programmes for the infectious diseases brucellosis and foot-and-mouth: Mongolia has one of the world's highest rates of brucellosis. Both diseases have serious effects on humans and animals, as well as on food security and the economy. Thanks to new laws, improved control mechanisms and strategies are introduced.
  • Updated curriculum for the School of Veterinary Medicine and Biotechnology: an external review of the curriculum was carried out with AHP support; the suggestions made for improvement have since been implemented. Further training courses and partnerships with Swiss universities are also organised by the AHP.

Project description: «Animal Health Projec»

3. Armenia: escaping poverty thanks to premium quality meat

More than half of the working population in Syunik region works in agriculture, in particular in milk and meat production. Agriculture could generate significant income for the farmers of Syunik, however many live at the subsistence level, owing partly to restricted access to veterinatrians and to markets.

With the production and marketing of prime beef and first-class dairy products, for which there is much demand in Armenia, the farmers are able to escape poverty.

The project funded by the SDC helps 7,000 households (approx. 30,000 people) in 40 communities to increase their milk and meat production and thereby raise their income. To this end, animal health is being improved: local veterinarians are supported, access to milk and meat markets is facilitated and the exchange of knowledge and experience among farmers is encouraged.

Markets for farmers in Syunik

4. Niger: peaceful coexistence between pastoralists and farmers

The Republic of Niger is the country with the largest number of livestock in the Sahel region. In rural areas, around 87% of the population rely on livestock for their livelihoods. For a long time, a mixed economy of settled farming and nomadic cattle-breeding underpinned a delicate balance between the environment, people and animals, as well as between the different needs and interests.

But four major periods of drought between 1969 and 2004, coupled with increasingly intensive use of farmland and grazing areas, showed how vulnerable the mixed economy system really was. Competition for scarce resources led to conflicts between the sedentary farmers and nomadic pastoralists.

The aims of the SDC project «Programme d’appui au secteur de l’élevage» (PASEL; livestock farming support programme) are twofold: first, to increase food security and through improved methods of cultivation and animal husbandry enable rural populations to make a regular income. Second, the project aims to prevent conflicts between nomadic pastoralists and sedentary farmers, to safeguard the interests of both sides and to ensure everyone has access to the scarce resources.

Project description: «Farmers and pastoralists in Niger»

5. Bangladesh: protecting people and animals in disasters

Bangladesh is regularly struck by tropical storms: the World Bank ranks it as the country most vulnerable to climatic events. The damage caused is enormous and the impact on people and animals catastrophic. In 2007, some 4,000 people were killed by cyclone Sidr. Over six million people were affected: many had to abandon everything they owned, including a great number of their animals, while fleeing the storm. Nine million people live in constant danger of losing their lives and source of income to floods and cyclones.

Thanks to a project supported by the SDC, some 21,000 households were prepared to better withstand future natural disasters. A major part of the project was the construction of 12 cyclone shelters.

The shelters are multifunctional and can also be used in normal circumstances. When disaster strikes, the first floor of the shelters is reserved for livestock. For the people, the animals are a means of safeguarding their livelihoods and they provide them with a chance of quickly getting back to productive daily lives in the wake of a natural disaster.

Project description: «Disaster risk reduction in Bangladesh»

Project description: »Community Cyclone Shelter Programme«