Livestock are an important and sometimes overlooked element of the livelihood strategies of the poor. As much as 70 percent of the rural poor depend on livestock to some degree. Livestock holdings are diverse and include cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, poultry, horses, camels, yaks, and llamas. An estimated 600 million poor people, including 150 million landless poor, own livestock (Delgado et al. 1999; IFAD et al. 2004:9,10; Thornton et al. 2002).
Livestock are a crucial source of financial capital for the rural poor. For many, livestock ownership is the only form of savings available. In fact, for pastoralists and often for poor women, livestock are the most important fungible asset they own. Livestock provide a critical reserve against emergencies and decrease vulnerability to financial shocks from ill health,crop failures, and other risks. They yield direct benefits in the form of food, wool, or hides, and can raise farm productivity by providing manure and draught power (PPLPI 2003:1). In a comparative study of poor livestock keepers in Bolivia, India, and Kenya, households in all three countries ranked livestock above business and housing as their best investment (Heffernan et al. 2002 in IFAD et al. 2004:14).
In 40 percent of Kenya