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Communities, Commodities and Crazy Ideas: Changing Livestock Policies in Africa

In the late 1990s a review of aid-assisted livestock projects included an assessment of sustained impact on poorer producers (Ashley et al. 1998). The review looked back over 35 years and analysed documents from more than 800 livestock projects funded by major donors, including the Department foInternational Development (UK), the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, the European Commission, DANIDA, theNetherlands Development Cooperation and the Swiss Development Cooperation.

The majority of these projects were based on a technical transfer paradigmin which constraints facing poor livestock keepers were to be addressed by the development anduptake of technologies, including new methods to control animal diseases, improve livestock breedsor raise production through a variety of other means. However, the lack of sustained impact on the poowas dramatic. In many cases, technologies were developed which livestock keepers either did not want or could not access due to weak delivery systems. In other cases, the benefits of new technologies were captured by wealthier producers.

Partly in response to these problems, a second broa category of livestock projects evolved which aimed to strengthen the capacity of organisations to develop and deliver novel technologies and services to the poor. These projects focused on government organisations (veterinary and extension services, research centres) and aimed to promote more clientfocused and decentralised approaches. A key project activity was training middle-level managers, researchers and field-level technicians. Again, the sustained benefit of these “organisational projects” was limited.

New skills did not change the way organisations behaved, as the overriding institutional frameworks rarely provided incentives for addressing the specific needs of the poor. Despite this rather gloomy picture a few projects did demonstrate substantial impact. These included new approaches to primary animal health care using privatised community-based animal health workers (CAHWs). Working in marginalised arid and semiarid areas of East Africa, local problem analysis wit communities led to the selection and training of CAHWs in areas where few veterinarians were willing to work. However, even these projects faced problems at a policy and institutional level – veterinary policies and legislation did not support CAHWs and were often vague or not implemented.

This article describes how workers at the Africa Union/InterAfrican Bureau for Animal Resources (AU/IBAR) addressed policy constraints toCAHWservices in theHorn and East Africa. The AU/IBAR team developed and applied a range of lobbying, advocacy, networking and learning methods within an overall strategy which recognised the overtly political nature of the policy process. Over time, the teamalso targeted global animal health standard setting bodies and began to apply their experience of policy process to a broader range of livestock policies.