AuthorPica-Ciamarra, Ugo


The African continent is in the midst of significant demographic, economic, technological, environmental, and sociopolitical transitions. Urbanization is an underlying component of this change: in 2011, fifty-two African cities exceeded one million inhabitants and the global share of African urban dwellers is projected to rise from 11.3 percent in 2010 to 20.2 percent in 2050, or from 400 million to 1.26 billion. (1) Rapid urbanization is associated with a variety of challenges related to employment, public health, environmental concerns, and food security issues. Raising crops and livestock offers urban and peri-urban dwellers opportunities to address some of those challenges by generating employment at the farm level and along the value chain. Urban agriculture also provides fresh food for self-consumption and for sale in urban markets and contributes to greener cities. (2)

Within urban and peri-urban agriculture, livestock farming plays an important role. A cross-country analysis of nationally representative datasets from twelve developing countries reports that between 5 and 33 percent of rural households depend on livestock for their livelihoods. (3) One study finds that in Tanzania about 22 percent of urban households owns some animals, and another report finds that in Niger about 37 percent of urban households owns animals. (4)

The literature on owning livestock in urban areas focuses on two major strands. Some studies portray the varieties of urban livestock production systems, while others address specific issues along the livestock value chain, such as feed and animal health issues. In contrast, our research aims to understand the role of livestock in urban and peri-urban areas by assessing the magnitude of this phenomenon in the urban context and measuring how it contributes to the livelihoods of urban dwellers. The analysis was carried out using the Niger National Survey on Living Conditions and Agriculture, which was implemented by the government of Niger. (5) This survey measures living standards for both rural and urban areas with a specific focus on agriculture, including livestock owning. This article is innovative in two respects: it builds on a data-set that is representative of the urban population and it targets the relationship between livestock ownership and livelihood. The literature on livestock owning in urban areas often relies on datasets that do not claim to be representative for urban areas and tends to focus on specific issues related to livestock production, such as food safety or environmental degradation, without exploring the livestock-livelihood nexus. (6)


Urban and peri-urban households own farm animals for a variety of reasons. Owning livestock contributes to food security, income and employment generation, savings, insurance, and social status. Animals can be easily converted into cash to cover major or unexpected expenditures, such as school and medical fees. Owning livestock requires less land than crop agriculture or no land at all for some production systems and is compatible with the growing demand for land for housing. Urban livestock can be fed on household waste, weeds and grass from public parks and roadside hedges, and crop residues from markets and urban agriculture. Thus, these animals generate value from resources that would otherwise remain unexploited. There is also scattered evidence that vulnerable groups, such as members of female-headed households, children, widows, and people with little education, often engage in urban and peri-urban owning livestock. (7) Urbanization is associated with an increased demand for animal protein, including meat, milk, eggs, and other livestock products. These factors provide opportunities for poor urban and peri-urban livestock keepers to derive additional benefits from their animals, including the possibility of exiting poverty.

Urban and peri-urban livestock ownership is also characterized by weaknesses and constraints. Livestock compete for water resources with humans. Because the availability of land and feed in urban areas is limited, households generally raise small ruminants such as goats and sheep, own poultry (chicken and ducks), and/or raise rabbits. These activities generally take place on a small scale and do not significantly contribute to livelihoods. In addition, about 70 percent of emerging human diseases are of animal origin, and animal health in urban areas is often poor due to inadequate husbandry practices that generate major public health risks. Disposing of animal waste exacerbates the human waste disposal problem and can contribute to environmental degradation.

A first strand of the literature describes and/or classifies urban and peri-urban livestock production systems. (8) Maeen-ud-Din and Babar provide a detailed description of livestock farming in the peri-urban areas of Faisalabad, Pakistan. (9) Their study, which differentiates farmers by herd structure and land owned, looks at the production and sale of milk and surveys the major constraints on production, including limited availability of fodder and feed, limited access to animal health services, and inadequate credit and marketing facilities. A study of three West African cities--Kano, Nigeria; Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso; and Sikasso, Mali--conducted an analysis of peri-urban livestock production strategies. (10) Researchers collected household data in these locations and investigated feeding and marketing strategies. In another study, researchers interviewed livestock owners in seventy-five households in Enugu Urban, Nigeria, and gathered data on animal species. (11) In another study, researchers randomly chose 120 livestock owners in Kampala city parishes to study major constraints to livestock productivity; they found that access to feed was the most significant. (12)

A second strand of the literature looks at specific elements along the livestock value chain. For example, one study scrutinized the feeding strategies that farmers who deal with feed scarcity in Kampala, Uganda, have adopted. (13) It looked at how livestock keepers changed the feed they used based on availability and cost, how they purchased feed ingredients in bulk, how they used crop/food waste, how they used foraging on open-access land, and reductions in herd size. An investigation carried out in India on human health issues related to owning livestock focused on contaminated water and occupational health hazards. (14) Another study assessed the quality and safety of meat products in the urban markets of Ibadan, Nigeria. (15) Cheng and Changbin have studied the growing demand for milk quantity and health safety issues in urban China. (16) Desissa and colleagues studied the level of Staphylococcus contamination in milk marketed informally and in milk collection centers in Debre-Zeit, Ethiopia. (17)


This article draws upon data from the Survey on Living Conditions of Households and Agriculture (SLCHA/Niger) collected by the National Institute of Statistics of Niger from June to December 2011, which includes a specific focus on agriculture. The survey is nationally representative: it includes urban and rural areas and all agricultural and climatic zones. The sample includes 3,265 households, of which 1,202 are urban and 2,063 are rural. The survey tools included a household questionnaire, an agricultural questionnaire, and a community questionnaire.

The SLCHA/Niger includes an expanded module on livestock. Information was collected for livestock ownership by species, subcategorized by indigenous and improved breeds, and by production and husbandry practices such as breeding, housing, feeding, watering, vaccinations, and deworming. Additional data was gathered about production of tradable outputs and nontradable or marginally traded livestock products such as dung and hauling services.


Characteristics of Livestock Owners

Of the 1,202 households located in urban areas of Niger, 34 percent, or 408 households, reported owning one animal or more. The representative urban livestock-owning household has seven members. The household head is fifty years old and in 75.1 percent of cases has little or no formal education (Table 1). (18) In these cases, urban agriculture, including raising crops and livestock, is the main economic activity. In addition, 26.5...

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