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Cattle Donations Work to Reduce Poverty, Improve Diets

12 October 2016

US - Two papers co-written by a pair of University of Illinois experts in agricultural policy and international development point to the wealth of positive effects that direct livestock-transfer programmes have on impoverished communities in rural Africa.

Peter Goldsmith and Alex Winter-Nelson, both professors of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois, found that the direct donation of livestock - dairy cows, meat goats and draft cattle - had numerous positive effects, including a reduction in poverty and an increase in food security, dietary diversity, economic resilience and gender empowerment.

"We found real evidence that giving this kind of asset to an impoverished community has a rapid and persistent positive effect on people's economic welfare," Mr Goldsmith said.

"For those who receive the gift, it directly translates into reduced poverty and reduced food insecurity. For the community as a whole, there's a 'spillover effect' that improves their lives, too."

"When you give this particular kind of gift, you're setting the community onto a particular kind of trajectory - specifically, that they're going to be more livestock-oriented," Mr Winter-Nelson said. "By doing that, perishable food items become much more available. Milk and meat are now cheaper, so everyone in the community is the beneficiary of a better diet. This particular kind of gift changes the food economy for everyone."

The researchers found that livestock transfers to extremely poor households, coupled with training on animal management and other services, can be an effective tool against hunger and poverty.

"It's a modest absolute change in expenditures" - about 25 cents per person per day - "that produces a substantial qualitative change in dietary diversity through the extra milk and meat produced," Mr Goldsmith said.

The papers will be published in the journal Food Policy and World Development. 

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