Implementing Policies for a Sustainable Livestock Sector: Lessons from Africa
A good policy framework
Many countries in Africa have a relatively robust policy and legislative framework for developing a sustainable livestock sector. A search for livestock-related policy documents in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) database of national legislation and international agreements concerning food and agriculture and renewable natural resources (FAOLEX), for example, provides 168 results for Kenya, 100 for Egypt, 55 for Ethiopia and 48 for Uganda.
These documents both outline a vision for the development of livestock sectors and prescribe or recommend the adoption of hundreds of practices to achieve that vision, from livestock vaccination to animal transport and marketing. For instance, according to the Animal Diseases Act, 2012, any Kenyan farmer is supposed to confine and isolate sick animals and report them to a veterinary officer. In Uganda, any farmer whose animal has been culled as part of control disease measures should "be paid compensation by the Government of an amount equal to the market value of the animal” (Animal Diseases Act, 2000). In Ethiopia, “(a)ny person shall obtain an animal movement permit with respect to animal disease … to transport animals” (Animal Diseases Prevention and Control Proclamation, 267/2002). In Egypt, farmers cannot dispose of dead animals by throwing them into the Nile River or its branches (Waste Management Law 202/2020). In brief, if existing laws and regulations were fully implemented, the visions spelled out in the country’s overarching policy documents would be likely achieved and the livestock sector would grow and transform sustainably.
Good policies, but not fully implemented
The returns on the intellectual efforts made to formulate policy and legislation, however, have not been impressive so far. Poverty and food insecurity loom large among livestock keepers; livestock are a potential source of diseases, as well as soil, water and air pollution; and markets are short of safe and cheap animal-source foods for consumers.
The issue is that while there are plenty of good practice documents that assist governments in formulating policy and legislation, as well as tools to assess and measure various livestock and institutional dimensions, policy implementation is difficult to carry out. How should the government of Kenya ensure that all farmers isolate sick animals and report them to a veterinarian? How should the government of Ethiopia ensure that all traders request and get a movement permit when shipping animals? Upon which tools can national governments rely to implement livestock sector policy and legislation?
Implementing policies: a few hints
The FAO Africa Sustainable Livestock 2050 Initiative (ASL2050) — implemented in the context of the Global Health Security Programme — has started cooperating with the governments of Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya and Uganda to further understanding of how to effectively implement policies. Preliminary lessons suggest that the following pillars characterize successful policy implementation:
- Local governments taking the lead. Most countries have a decentralized governance system, with local governments being in charge of implementing policies. Local governments, therefore, should lead any policy implementation effort.
- Problem-focused approaches. Local governments should be humble and target one policy problem at a time, especially limited compliance with a specific law or regulation. Examples could be farmers not reporting sick animals to the veterinary authority in Kenya, or Egyptian broiler producers throwing dead birds into waterbodies.
- Co-creation of policy actions. Local governments should engage field livestock officers and private businesses along the livestock value chain — from farmers through processors to retailers — to find consensus on the actions necessary to implement policies, including both public and private sector actions. These actors operate on the ground, have a good understanding of what can and cannot be done and therefore are in the best position to identify practical policy actions.
- Operationality of policy actions. Public actions to operationalize policies should be largely implementable with existing human, financial and technical capacity. It is better to go for a second-best option than for a proposal that is not actionable without some external support.
- Consistency with business models. Public actions to operationalize policies should provide sufficient incentives for livestock stakeholders to change their business models and comply with the legislative framework. Typically, incentives can be in the form of either a reward (e.g. improved profitability) or a penalty (e.g. a fine).
- Experimentation. Once stakeholders have agreed upon policy actions to enforce a specific law or regulation, local governments should pilot them on a small scale to verify their effectiveness. To this end, a robust monitoring and evaluation system should be put in place.
- Refinement and scaling up. If the proposed policy actions prove effective, then the local government can easily scale them up at the local level. The national government could then consider scaling the actions up throughout the country, or in selected regions or districts.
Policy implementation: two promising examples
The above pillars, when well operationalized, can result in effective policy formulation and implementation.
In Kenya, the Meat Control Regulations (2010) state that the slaughtering of animals for human consumption should be carried out in a licensed facility. However, most animals are slaughtered on farms or in non-licensed facilities, which creates public health hazards. The local governments of Kiambu and Nairobi City, jointly with FAO, have therefore launched a dialogue with local stakeholders to find ways to operationalize the Meat Control Regulations, with a focus on poultry. Stakeholders proposed that broiler farmers could set up their own slaughter slabs, which will meet agreed biosecurity and public health standards in terms of both equipment and process. The local government will then certify those slabs and inspect them randomly; it will also grant permission to certified broiler farmers to ship dressed birds to the markets, which provides farmers with sufficient incentives to establish slaughter slabs that satisfy minimum biosecurity and public health standards. In 2022, the Kiambu and Nairobi City counties, in cooperation with FAO, will implement an experiment to assess the effectiveness of the proposed policy solution.
In Egypt, the Waste Management Law 202/2020 prohibits the disposal of dead animals in waterbodies. However, a multitude of evidence suggests that some broiler producers throw dead birds in the Nile River and water canals, polluting water and creating public health hazards. The General Organization of Veterinary Services, the governorates of Monufia and Qalyubia and FAO have therefore joined forces to explore options to enforce the Waste Management Law among broiler producers. Stakeholders discussed that poultry compositing is a viable policy solution: it is technically not challenging; it is likely to enhance the profitability of broiler farmers, who will no longer have incentives to dispose of dead birds in waterways; and it only requires a one-off public sector investment, notably the training of broiler farmers, i.e., it does not add any burden to the already heavy workload of field livestock officers. In 2022, the local governments of Monufia and Qalyubia governorates may implement an experiment to assess to what extent the proposed policy solution could effectively ensure that broiler farmers comply with the Waste Management Law.
Implementing policies: guidance
FAO ASL2050 is cooperating with the governments of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to implement existing livestock-related policies. This experience will be documented and summarized in a guidance document to assist national and local governments, as well as the international community, in successfully implementing the existing livestock policy framework. Indeed, policy implementation is by far the biggest challenge preventing sustainable development of the livestock sector.
Livestock: An Integral Component of Sustainable Food Systems