Urban Livestock production

Animal production is and has been part of urban agriculture in many cities in the South. It occurs in a multitude of forms (mixed farms or specialized livestock keepers; species, herd size, free roaming or confined, husbandry practices), scales and degree of market orientation (subsistence, mixed subsistence/commercial, small commercial, large commercial) and locations (back yards, roof tops, peri-urban areas, urban public vacant spaces) each with its own problems and opportunities.

Animals serve for the production of different forms of high quality food, animals have served in rites for sacrificial purposes, they can help to upgrade food waste from kitchens and/or agro-industry, they are a form of informal saving and provide cash income, and they provide manure that can be used as fertilizer in urban crop production. But urban livestock can also be a means to empower urban poor (especially women) and to enhance the local resilience of the neighbourhood against food or economic crisis.

However, when you ask city officials about urban agriculture they will often only mention vegetable gardening, although in most cases they are well aware that a lot of livestock is around in the city (they might even own some cattle, sheep or poultry themselves!). But in most city laws and regulations livestock in the city is often severely restricted due to perceived associated health or environmental risks (e.g. zoonosis) and the fear for complaints for citizens living close to the livestock keepers (flies, odour, noise) or due to problems caused by free roaming animals.

In many cases it has been shown that by proper management many of these perceive problems can be prevented (e.g. confinement, adequate hygien and manure management, etcetera)

More research is needed to identify to what extent and under what conditions these perceptions are real, depending location, type and number of animals, animal husbandry practices applied, and risk prevention measures taken.

For an extensive introduction and review of literature on this subject please go to State of the ArtThis paper reviews the categorisations, relevance and logic of urban livestock keeping in past and modern society. It stresses that animals can be both a nuisance and a benefit, serving several direct and indirect functions in urban ecosystems, each with different priorities at household, city and national level.

Go to RUAF publications for RUAF publications on this topic (most of which are available online). You may also view the articles in the Urban Agriculture Magazine on this topic or use the Search option.

PDF icon Urban Livestock.pdf5.99 MB