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Five Ways Women are Driving the ‘Livestock Revolution’

Women constitute two thirds of the world’s 600 million poor livestock keepers. But due to socio-economic, cultural and gender restrictions their success can be limited.

As new initiatives emerge that seek to provide women with better access to medicines and veterinary services, we take a look at how this could impact these communities and drive the livestock revolution.

1.Increased food security

In Tanzania and other parts of East Africa, dairy farming is a principle source of income for women in livestock communities. It also provides their children with essential nutrients they may not otherwise be able to access.

But poor animal health greatly hinders dairy farming in developing regions and socio-cultural barriers make it difficult for women to access the right medicines for sick animals. Thankfully, new initiatives focused on empowering women in the community, such as those that have been led by the Kenya Women’s Veterinary Association, have shown this can be overcome, helping to reduce incidence and cost of tick-borne disease in cattle. With improved animal health comes better control of the food being produced.

2. Educating about animal health

In some communities, social norms discourage women from interacting with male livestock keepers and service providers, which limits their access to animal health training, medicines and extension. These cultural obstacles are being tackled by putting more women in key roles. The Southern Africa Newcastle Disease Programme, for example, specifically focused on recruiting more women as vaccinators, which resulted in reaching more female poultry farmers and an increased income for these women.

But there is still resistance in some parts of the world. In Peru, for example, women are often not allowed at training courses despite spending more time with the animals, which means the industry is missing out on a valuable knowledge bank.

3. Growing farms

Women livestock keepers in East Africa tend to own fewer animals than men, acquiring them through inheritance rather than purchasing the animals themselves. This is because many women are often unable to buy livestock due to their gender.

But new initiatives have been established that give women more access to animals and microcredit, allowing them to buy their own livestock. Programmes established by the WorldBank focus on empowering women, for example, a project in Kenya which trained women and men on new agricultural technologies resulted in women reporting a 35% earnings uplift from agriculture activities.

According to research by FAO, closing the gender gap in developing countries could increase yields on female-run farms by 20-30%, which could increase the output in developing countries by 2.5-4%.

4. Better control of animal diseases

Women play a huge role in the care-giving of animals. But are unable to access the same level of medicines for their livestock as men.

A 2011 study by GALVmed found insight into information on animal vaccination dates may be difficult for women in Tanzania to access as they within male-dominated occasions, such as dip meetings or on market days. Women are less likely to have the financial strength to buy medicine. Meanwhile, men take the decision-making role and have the relationship with the vet, rather than their female counterparts.

New initiatives are improving access to important information to females livestock keepers, which may be invaluable at keeping more animals healthy.

5. Better control of zoonotic diseases

Within communities in East Africa, women’s duties include milking the animals, day-to-day care and preparing food for the family. This means when livestock falls sick, women are more susceptible to contracting zoonotic diseases, such as Brucellosis and Avian Influenza – which can subsequently be passed on to their family. Meanwhile, there is also a risk of contracting tuberculosis through food preparation.

But work is being done to leverage the important role of women to help reduce the spread of zoonoses. The Kenya Women’s Veterinary Association, for example, has helped to build animal health management skills in local communities, which has resulted in improved control of zoonoses and tick-borne diseases in particular.


  • ILRI: Livestock and women’s livelihoods: A Review of the Recent Evidence:
  • Gendered Perspectives on Smallholder Cattle Production and Health Management in Three