Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Where is my cow? Theft and disease of livestock increase poverty in rural Tanzania

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ImageLet's think together: Every week the World Bank team in Tanzania wants to stimulate your thinking by sharing data from recent official surveys in Tanzania and ask you a couple of questions. This post is also published in theTanzanian Newspaper The Citizen every Sunday.

About 70 per cent of the world’s 1.4 billion extreme poor rely on livestock to sustain their livelihood, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO, 2009). Not only does livestock provide meat and milk for consumption, it also helps increase agricultural productivity through manure which is an organic fertilizer and draft power.

Because it can be readily marketed to generate income, livestock also reduces the vulnerability of poor households to external shocks. But this crucial resource is also susceptible to many risks including drought, disease, and theft.
In Tanzania, as of October 2010, there were more than 17 million heads of large livestock  (bulls, cows, heifers, steers), more than 21 million of medium-sized livestock (sheep and goats or shoats), close to 2 million pigs, and over 50 million heads of poultry. As a result, about 5 million Tanzanian households, or close to 58 per cent of them, reported owning at least one kind of livestock, with the larger proportion of them in rural areas (3 out of 4 households) than in urban areas (one out of 4). Approximately, 25 per cent of rural households owned a large livestock compared to less than 4 per cent of urban households.
Unfortunately, many Tanzanian households cannot fully benefit from their livestock because most of them are exposed to disease and theft. With less than 30 per cent of owners reporting having vaccinated their livestock over the previous 12 months, morbidity rates in 2010/11 were as high as 42, 29, 20 and 58 per cent for cattle, goats, pigs and poultry respectively.

In 2010/11, the toll on livestock from disease and theft was staggering:
- Diseases claimed more than 1.4 million cattle and 3.4 million shoats.
- More than 80,000 heads of cattle and half a million shoats were stolen.
- Poultry were even more exposed to diseases and theft with a loss of more than 30 million.

The total loss from disease and theft for all livestock was estimated at Sh649 billion of which Sh572 billion was just from disease. This amount is equivalent to about 2 per cent of GDP and 8.3 per cent of agricultural GDP. These two plagues hit poor rural households harder with more than 55 per cent of them having experienced loss compared to 37 per cent of households in the richest quintile. Livestock theft and disease cost more than 6 per cent of average total household consumption. In addition, 8.5 per cent of the poor in 2010/11 were pushed into poverty by the loss of livestock, adding more than 800,000 people into these ranks.

This raises a number of questions:
- What prevents farmers from investing more in the protection of their livestock, especially through vaccination programs? Should government invest more in veterinary services to tackle livestock disease?
- Should investment in new technologies, such as GPS, be considered to help track stolen livestock as experimented in Kenya? Or does this just require stronger law enforcement?
- What role can insurance products play in strengthening the livestock sub-sector?
- Should government subsidize livestock insurance or vaccination programs?

Note: These statistics are extracted from the 2009 FAO State of Food and Agriculture report and the Tanzania National Panel Survey 2010/11. Both are publicly available and can be readily replicated.


Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

Jacques Morisset

Lead Economist and Program Leader, World Bank

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