Non-productive use of cattle and livestock

Other Names:
Underutilization of livestock
In most parts of eastern and southern Africa, cattle-keeping has little relation to the traditional subsistence economy, except as a means of simultaneously producing wealth and 'banking' it. The animals are rarely slaughtered for commercial sale or domestic consumption; they are used chiefly for ceremonial feasts and religious celebrations associated with death rites or ancestor worship; for validating marriages and cementing kinship bonds; for paying fines; settling conflicts; or financing undertakings requiring hired labour. Ownership of cattle determines a man's position in the community; his social standing, influence and potential economic power are measured by the size of his herd.
Counter Claim:
Cattle keeping in eastern and southern Africa by the peasant farmers is an intrinsic part of the traditional subsistence economy. While cattle are a source of wealth and status and are not kept primarily for the provision or sale of beef, they have many other roles in society, particularly in societies which practise cropping. These roles are difficult to quantify in terms of value, but have a value, in monetary terms, that is probably greater than the value of the animal as a source of saleable beef.

Though not necessarily in order of priority, the role of livestock, particularly cattle, in traditional societies, is: (a) the provision of drought animals for land preparation; (b) the provision of milk for home consumption; (c) the provision of manure for fertilization of cropping lands; (d) as a source of wealth and status; (e) for religious, social and ceremonial purposes; and (f) as a source of cash from the sale of beef.

It is recognized that peasant farmers who own cattle enjoy a higher level of productivity and standard of living than those who do not, and with limited land resources there is therefore keen competition between peasant families for cattle ownership and grazing rights.

In more arid region, where cropping is not practised, priorities for cattle ownership change and off-take from herds for sale is higher, but cattle remain a valuable source of milk and in some cases blood for family nutrition.

Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
19.02.2000 – 00:00 CET