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Livestock Feeding Support as Drought Response

Summary of research1

A sick cow and a shepherd boy in Ab'Ala Afar Region

A livelihoods-based drought response in pastoralist areas could aim to protect key livestock assets and support rapid rebuilding of herds after drought. One aspect of developing such a response requires decision makers to understand the relative importance of different causes of livestock mortality during drought.

Research conducted by the Pastoralist Livelihoods Initiative in Afar, Borana and Somali areas of Ethiopia aimed to quantify different causes of livestock mortality during 'normal' and 'drought' years (see Table 1). These figures show that:

Table 1 Livestock leaving pastoralist herds in normal and drought years
Reason for off-take or loss from herd Afar herdst Borana herds Somali herds
  Normal year Drought year Normal year Drought year Normal year Drought year
Starvation 0% 19.5% 0.7% 13.1% 0% 15.5%
Disease 10.1% 16.7% 12.5% 11.9% 12.6% 7.3%
Sale 6.0% 6.5% 8.4% 8.5% 7.0% 5.1%
Slaughter 0.6% 0.4% 1.7% 1.8% 4.1% 3.1%
Predation 4.7% 5.1% 6.8% 6.1% 6.1% 4.6%
Other 6.1% 5.3% 7.0% 6.2% 2.9% 1.2%
Total 27.5% 53.5% 37.1% 47.6% 32.7% 39.8%


Evidence from Pastoralist Livelihood Initiative (PLI) impact assessments in southern Ethiopia showed that when some livestock were destocked, pastoralists chose to use part of the resulting income on both animal feed support (up to 31% of income) and veterinary care (6% of income). This pattern of investment contrasted with a typical aid response for livestock during drought, which focuses heavily on veterinary treatments or vaccinations.

An analysis of supplementary livestock feeding programmes in northern Kenya in 2001 assumed that feed was provided for 8000 sheep and goats for three months during drought. Each animal was fed 250g concentrate/day. The cost was compared with the cost of replacing these animals by restocking after the drought. Whereas the feed programme cost US$82,353, the restocking would have cost US$258,065 - it was around three times more expensive to restock than to keep sheep and goats alive during the drought through feed supplementation.

A theoretical analysis of feed, transport, operational and administration costs for delivering feed in Afar region found that restocking sheep and goats cost around 6.5 times more than supplementary feeding. Restocking cattle costs 14 times more than supplementary feeding.

The PLI research highlighted a number of key policy and programming issues:

Show footnotes

1Pastoralist Livelihoods Initiative (2007). Food for Thought: Livestock Feeding Support during Drought. Policy Brief, Number 2, November 2007

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Reference this page

Livestock Feeding Support as Drought Response. Field Exchange 32, January 2008. p8.



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