How can livestock help families overcome poverty?

By Divya Amladi
Livestock at harvest time in Amhara and Tigray, Ethiopia. Photo: Coco McCabe/Oxfam

Animals produce milk, fertilizer, and take on labor duties, giving families a pathway to resiliency.

In many communities, animals such as goats, sheep, cows, pigs, and chickens play a vital role in a family’s financial stability. Milk, eggs, and other animal products can be sold at the market; livestock can plow and fertilize fields to grow fruits and vegetables; and milk and meat can keep families fed. The health of a family’s herd can determine whether they can eat dinner at night, afford to send children school, and cover medical costs to stay healthy themselves.

A baby goat in Nepal. Photo: Aurélie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

One way to help people take care of themselves is by equipping them with animals and the training to raise and put them to work. That’s why Oxfam’s long-term programming includes animals; they are invaluable investments in families’ futures. And when disaster strikes, Oxfam’s emergency responses often also include support for these household assets.

Meet three people whose lives have been changed by acquiring just one or two animals:

Sekander, a father of eight in Afghanistan, poses with some of his goats. Photo: James Riturban/OxfamAUS

Sekander participated in Oxfam’s "Building Resilient Livelihoods" project in Afghanistan, which provided 400 vulnerable households with high-yield goats for breeding. Without Oxfam’s support, he explained, this particular breed would have been too expensive for people in his community. "For poor people it's very difficult to have access to these goats because we don't have enough money to buy [them]. But now we have these goats and some knowledge on how to take care of them," he said.

One goat gave birth to three kids, increasing his family's future prospects. He and his wife Kobra were able to put aside income from selling milk toward finishing their home and sending their eight children to school.

Nyalit, a mother in South Sudan, received two goats from Oxfam Photo: Tim Bierley/Oxfam

When people in Lankien, South Sudan, were struggling with extreme hunger in 2017, Oxfam not only provided food to community members but also goats to households, as well as the support families needed to rear them.

Nyalit received two goats. A mother of three with a husband who is disabled and unable to work, she reported that goats had helped the family cope.

“When they deliver, they will produce milk, and hopefully those kids will also deliver more kids and more milk,” she told us.

Lucia, a farmer in Wau County, South Sudan, with Malual, an oxen that Oxfam provided through an agricultural management program for female farmers. Photo: Tim Bierley/Oxfam

Lucia, a farmer in Wau County, South Sudan, received an ox through an agriculture program designed to empower women farmers. Oxfam provided training to teach women in the community how to use oxen to plow their fields instead of doing it by hand, and in doing so, make the process less labor intensive for them. In 2018, a year after Malual the ox joined her household, Lucia told us she had saved enough time to start a side business selling cakes.

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