Animal health important for poverty reduction and food security

Investments in improved animal health contribute in several ways to the implementation of Agenda 2030. It shows one new report from the Expert Group on Development Aid (EBA). Improved animal health gives poor animal keepers increased production and yields, and also reduces the spread of infectious diseases and multi-resistant bacteria. Sweden has unique experience of organized animal health work - these experiences should be used in international development cooperation, the authors of the report write.

750 million of the world's extremely poor - the majority of them women - today receive their main livelihood from animal husbandry. Animal husbandry is often low-productive due to insufficient feeding and chronic diseases in the animals. In addition, as these animals are at risk of contracting acute infectious diseases, efforts to improve animal health are an effective way of combating poverty among this large and often politically marginalized group of small farmers. In addition, improved animal health would increase the availability of high-quality protein and vital nutrients - something that is especially important for women of reproductive age and young children.

In addition to the fact that improved animal health contributes to achieving the Global goals of eradicating poverty and eradicating hunger, it also leads to improved public health. Many of the animals' infectious diseases are not only at risk their life and health but can also be transmitted to humans and then spread further. A well-known example of this is the flu epidemics that regularly affect the world and that originate in the animal- and population-dense areas of East Asia. Another animal health aspect with a direct link to public health is the alarming spread of bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics - something that an inefficient and irresponsible use of medicine in parts of global animal husbandry has contributed to.

Sweden can play an important role

In a new EBA report, Animal health in development - its role for poverty reduction and human welfare, We emphasize the importance of reliable animal health systems for sustainable animal husbandry in low-income countries. We make an analysis of the current situation with special focus on sub-Saharan Africa and make recommendations on priorities and strategies for animal health measures. One of the report's most important conclusions is that Sweden, with its internationally unique experience of organized animal health work, has the potential to contribute in several areas to the international work for better animal health. Sida can play an important role in collaboration with other international and national actors, including Swedish universities and authorities.

As mentioned above, investing in sustainable animal health systems provides an opportunity for low-income countries to approach several of the Global Sustainable Development Goals. This can be more clearly illustrated by the following:

- Healthy animals are more productive than sick ones, and production is exposed to less variation. This gives the individual farmer a higher and more stable yield (Objectives 1 and 8). It also means more efficient use of natural resources and reduced greenhouse gas emissions per unit of milk, eggs and meat produced (Objectives 13 and 15).

- Healthy animals increase the supply of food of animal origin; an important source of essential micronutrients (Objectives 2 and 3).

- Healthy animals do not transmit infections to humans and do not need antibiotics (Objective 3).

- Gender-conscious animal health initiatives can have important effects on women's empowerment, as women in many parts of the world are directly responsible for household animal husbandry (Objective 5).

Obstacle to overcome

Investments in animal health systems in low-income countries thus have great potential to improve the welfare of poor animal keepers. The Government's new policy framework for development cooperation also emphasizes that initiatives relating to improved animal health and animal production can contribute to more efficient resource utilization, positive public health effects and increased export opportunities for low-income countries. But there are many obstacles along the way. We therefore recommend three areas that Swedish development assistance should focus on and contribute to increased investments in:

1) Assessment of the effectiveness of animal health interventions. There is a great need for data collection and analysis to assess the costs of animal diseases and their control. The goal is to develop tools for analyzing how effective different types of animal health interventions are. Sweden has an outstanding position in monitoring, prevention and control of animal diseases. These experiences should be used in international cooperation.

2) Public-private partnerships. "Prevention is better than cure" is a basic principle when it comes to health issues. Sweden can be seen as a role model where collaborations between authorities, researchers and agricultural companies have contributed to us in animal husbandry having a uniquely low use of antibiotics combined with high productivity and good animal health. In the international arena, Swedish expertise should contribute more to organizations that work to promote sustainable animal health systems. To do this, political will is needed from the Swedish side.

3) Capacity development in low-income countries. Over the years, Sweden has developed an advanced education and training capacity in the field of animal health and animal production. The activities are aimed at both practitioners and researchers / teachers, not least from low-income countries in Africa and Asia. Support for educational initiatives and research institutions has long-term lasting effects and should be strengthened.

As we now work towards the common Global goals, it is emphasized that no one should be "Left behind". Investments in improved animal health are important so that this does not affect the 750 million poor and marginalized animal keepers in the world.

Ulf Magnusson, Jonathan Rushton & Arvid Uggla

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

Do you also want to write a debate article for Uttvecklingsmagasinet? Contact us at

Share this:

Help us improve Utvecklingsmagasinet

Answer our survey so we can continue to run and develop our digital magazine. It only takes a couple of minutes to answer the survey.

Start a survey