Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Gender and Livestock Links: Income, Markets, Nutrition and Resilience

Investments in livestock production and animal source foods (ASF) are critical opportunities to encourage inclusive markets that enable and promote better nutrition. The livestock sector directly supports the livelihoods of 600 million smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women. [1] Enhancing women’s opportunities to keep and raise healthy animals can improve women’s income, asset base and standing in their households and communities. The examples below highlight how Feed the Future works at different levels — vulnerable households and local businesses — to improve incomes, nutrition, resilience, market connections and women’s empowerment.

Livestock at the Center in Guatemala

The joint Feed the Future and Food for Peace PAISANO project, launched in August 2012 by Save the Children [2], offers a promising proof of concept of working along three agriculture-to-nutrition pathways — food production, agricultural income and women’s empowerment — to improve resilience, nutrition and income. PAISANO works with families (the poorest of the poor) in the Western Highlands of Guatemala to improve homestead food production and nutrition and emphasizes livestock keeping for women. The project’s livestock component works with women, who are typically both caregivers for children and keepers of livestock, to produce animal source foods — milk from dairy goats, meat from rabbits and chickens, and eggs.

Resiliency comes from having a mix of goats, rabbits and chickens in the home as a complement to crop-based livelihood strategies. The combination creates a variety of income streams and assets, an ability to sell and maintain livestock and ASF, and a safety net in the case of mortality of one kind of animal or unexpected emergency. Childhood nutrition is improved if families commit to meeting family nutritional needs first, providing one cup of goat milk per day to children who are six months to two years old. Other family members may benefit nutritionally from access to milk, meat and eggs produced at home. While nutrition comes first in PAISANO, if excess production is sold, this income can pay for needed inputs such as animal vaccines, feed and replacement animals, thereby supporting sustainability of the family’s livestock system. While the PAISANO project has not yet been rigorously evaluated, the results have been promising, and the community of gender, nutrition and livestock practitioners looks forward to PAISANO’s evidence base of findings and lessons going forward.

Expanding Dairy Businesses in Ethiopia

USAID/Ethiopia’s Agriculture Growth Program – Livestock Market Development (AGP-LMD) project enhances the capacity of women entrepreneurs like Meskerem Solomon in livestock value chains. Meskerem founded the Azu Dairy Farm in 2007 and is using a grant alongside training in cheesemaking, dairy management and business proposal development through AGP-LMD to expand the dairy’s milk buying contracts to smallholder farmers who do not have other market access, increasing their incomes as well. She also plans to expand the dairy’s cheese processing capacity to meet growing demand, including from her own pizza restaurant.

Measuring the Links

Phase Two of the Gender, Agriculture and Assets Project is currently piloting a version of the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) that has been adapted for livestock programming. The tool emphasizes decisions and practices around livestock keeping and husbandry and is being designed to capture changes in empowerment that may be more visible from shorter-term projects.

What are your experiences, lessons and challenges in connecting livestock programming with women’s empowerment? Please leave a comment or question by clicking the “Start New Discussion” button in the upper right!

[1]Global Food Security Strategy Technical Guidance: Investing in Livestock Production and Animal Source Food Market Systems https://feedthefuture.gov/resource/global-food-security-strategy-technical-guidance-investing-livestock-production-and-animal.

[2]Save the Children (SC) Guatemala implementing the Programa de Acciones Integradas de Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutricional del Occidente - PAISANO - in a consortium with Project Concern International (PCI).