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The value of livestock and animal protein in the fight against poverty and malnutrition

About this essay

The main source of the information in this essay is the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). Created by the United Nations in 1977, IFAD works with rural populations in developing countries to eliminate poverty, hunger and malnutrition, to raise productivity and income and improve the quality of people’s lives. Many IFAD-supported projects and programmes have been in remote areas and have targeted some of the poorest and most deprived segments of the rural population. IFAD has recognised that vulnerable groups can and do contribute to economic growth. 

This essay tackles the following misrepresentations:

Myth: Raising livestock is unfair
Fact: One billion cattle, sheep and goats play a crucial role in helping some of the poorest people in the world to eat food with a high nutritional value and to earn money.

Executive summary

According to United Nations (UN) 1.2 billion people were still living on less than $1.25 a day in 2010, which it defines as living in extreme poverty. Specialist UN agency the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has said 900 million people in extreme poverty live in rural areas and most of them rely on livestock to help feed themselves and their families. IFAD calculates that 800 million smallholder farmers in these communities combine to look after a billion head of livestock.

The agency’s work shows that owning and looking after animals is of incalculable value to people in poverty. The animals are a source of food that, even if in limited supply, is of high nutritional value. In these communities, this nutrition is of particular importance to children, for mental and for physical growth, and to pregnant women. Animals also provide a means of transport, of bearing loads and of working the land. Their manure is a source of fuel and of fertiliser. All of these are potential sources of income, during and at the end of the animal’s life. And after slaughter, the hide and other by-products can supplement the value of the meat.

Looking after livestock also helps many women in the developing world to achieve greater equality and economic independence.


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