Understanding the Livestock Economy in South Sudan Budget GBP 120,000 Closing: 07 Jan 2020
Why is this issue important? What is known already?
Livestock are central to many people’s livelihoods in South Sudan, particularly where agro-pastoralism is the main livelihood system in rural areas. Animals – cattle but also sheep, goats and chickens provide meat and - in the case of cattle – milk. Critically, in a country with a very under-developed financial system, for the major pastoral communities (notably Dinka and Nuer), households’ financial capital is held in the form of livestock. Through these communities’ intricate kinship networks and obligations, traditional social support systems in South Sudan are based on livestock transactions.
Livestock is a major, but poorly understood part of South Sudan’s economy. An Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) study based on 2013 data estimated livestock contribution to GDP at US$3 billion. However, not only are there are large uncertainties over this estimate (see below) but the livestock economy has itself been reshaped since by both conflict and the related economic crisis.
Livestock trade patterns have changed over the last couple of decades. The first few years after the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 saw a marked increase in livestock marketing activity in South Sudan associated with oil revenues, rising government employment, and a large influx of returnees. Conflict since 2013 has reshaped this.
More people are now killed in inter-communal fighting than in the more politically-driven civil war, and livestock raiding and counter-raiding is often central to this intercommunal violence. This is thought to be driving changes in patterns of livestock ownership, as not only does livestock serve as a driver of conflict but the livestock economy is also negatively impacted by conflict, with the two often reinforcing each other in a vicious cycle.
There are, therefore, a range of factors reshaping the livestock economy. In common with other countries in the region, livestock ownership is becoming more concentrated. Whereas many agro-pastoral communities were once relatively equitable, with families tending their own herds, now a few rich men own vast herds and employ (often armed) men to look after them.
In a future, peaceful South Sudan it seems likely that a comparable pattern of market orientation will occur as in other countries in the region, including more domestic livestock trade as human populations and urban centres grow, and more cross-border trade. This trend will provide economic benefits to those livestock producers who stay in the system, and mobile herding will continue with large herds, sometime cared for by contract herders. However, if South Sudan follows a similar livestock trajectory to other countries, many people will exist on the edge of agro-pastoralism and pastoralism, and mixes of livestock and diversified activities. If so, the main development challenge is to support livestock-based livelihoods where feasible, as well as diversified and alternative livelihoods.
There have been few systematic studies of South Sudan’s livestock sector and no comprehensive research on the livestock economy beyond the partial study on the sector’s contribution to GDP (see Onyango et al 2015). Given the rapid change the sector is understood to be undergoing, it is also expected that studies 5 or more years old may no longer be reliable.
One key knowledge gap is that the numbers of livestock are not known with any certainty. A livestock census that involved an actual count of livestock was last conducted in Sudan (north and south) in 1975-1977; this was an aerial survey. Since then, official livestock population estimates have been based on a constant rate herd growth model. There are strong suspicions that the numbers of animals are far smaller than official figures. Updating the herd size estimate is critical for understanding livelihoods, the contribution of livestock to GDP, and for planning animal health and other services. A separate research study is currently in development which aims to explore the feasibility of using remote sensing to update estimates of the number of cattle in South Sudan.
Although the relative importance of livestock to the South Sudanese economy remains uncertain, there is no doubt of the importance of livestock to livelihoods in South Sudan. Some parts of the country which escaped the worst of the violence since 2013 but which lost much of their livestock in the conflicts of the 1980s and 1990s remain among the poorest nationally (e.g. Northern Bahr el Ghazal). This suggests the legacy of livestock loss can take decades to recover from. It is important to better understand this phenomenon, and the lessons that can be drawn for future programming to assist communities who have lost herds due to conflict and raiding since 2013.
While at one time cattle were managed in herds owned by a number of families, the increasing concentration of ownership now means that some herds are increasingly managed by men paid – and armed - for this role, changing the nature of cattle keeping. There is also anecdotal evidence that sheep and goats may be replacing cattle in communities badly affected by conflict, as families struggle to afford to rebuild cattle herds. All of this requires that we have a solid, contemporary understanding of the role of livestock in livelihoods on which to base livelihoods and resilience programming.
1. Overall, there is a poor state of knowledge about livestock markets in South Sudan, including their drivers, dynamics and structures. Various agencies (for example WFP, FAO and, for the time being, REACH) collect livestock market information in South Sudan but this is not systematically collated. There is a fear that some humanitarian agency staff may base their interventions on an out of date understanding of communities’ dependence on livestock sales.
2. Similarly, there is evidence that a growing dependence on markets may be reshaping the kinship ties and weakening the long-held practices of reciprocal obligations whereby those who are relatively wealthy now lend animals to worse off members of their extended families. It will be important for humanitarian and resilience programming to understand how far any such weakening of traditional safety nets is in fact occurring.
3. Another important gap is information on cross-border livestock trade. This is difficult to measure, and trade data are not available for South Sudan. The role and dynamics of cross-border livestock movements are understood to be different on the borders with Sudan and Ethiopia to that with Uganda. But more needs to be understood, including with poorly understood locations along the borders with the Central African Republic (CAR) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
4. A robust and rigorous study is needed to expand the evidence on the livestock economy in South Sudan and the ways in which it helps support livelihoods. This evidence will be critical for informing South Sudan’s Government and development agencies’ efforts to rebuild livelihoods as the country emerges from conflict.
5. Moreover, if the remote sensing work to update the count of livestock in South Sudan is successful, it should then be possible to combine the estimates of livestock numbers with this study’s insights into the value of livestock to households and the economy to update estimates of the contribution of livestock to South Sudan’s GDP. Besides the use of this information for economic policy makers, comparing these estimates with those for other countries in the region should help in understanding to what extent/how far the sector is falling short of its economic potential and so help in prioritising efforts by Government, humanitarian actors and development agencies.
What is the proposed intervention?
i. Explore the importance of livestock to livelihoods and how this has changed over time – including a review of existing literature and analysis of existing survey data (e.g. the Food and Nutrition Security Monitoring Survey (FNSMS) and other available sources) and primary research with livestock owners to understand the changing role of livestock in livelihoods in different locations across South Sudan. This will include exploration of livestock ownership patterns and the impacts of livestock losses.
ii. Examine the state of livestock markets and how they are changing/evolving – including a review of existing literature, survey design, delivery and analysis undertaken in a number of the key livestock markets across South Sudan (e.g. Gumbo, Gogril, Mayom, Akobo, Kapoeta and those that serve Lakes and feed into Unity) exploring prices (e.g. where differences between markets can help understand how inter-connected the markets are, the dynamics and the length and complexity of value chains. There is also an interest in understanding the economics of the cattle camps themselves - how far they are closed economies or whether they sell products (e.g. milk) into local markets.
iii. Explore future prospects for the livestock economy and how this is expected to change – including a literature review, qualitative interviews, roundtable events, synthesis of findings from preceding research components and expert input about the livestock economy in the region and scenario development setting out how this might affect South Sudan.
iv. Based on the findings:
· Make recommendations on effective policy and implementation approaches at both the national and sub-national levels.
· Conduct a dissemination workshop in Juba for key stakeholders including, Government, humanitarian agencies and donors, NGOs and private sector firms involved or otherwise interested in the livestock value chain.
7. The priority for the research is components 1 and 2. However, it is expected that all three will be delivered to the highest possible standard.
8. The key questions that the research should consider include (but not limited to):
a. Livestock in livelihoods
a. How does the literature suggest the importance of livestock to livelihoods has changed since 2011?
b. How have livelihoods based on or involving livestock changed since 2011? What are the main drivers of these changes?
c. In what ways do the animals contribute to livelihoods? What is the relative importance of services (milk etc), meat, sale or exchange of animals etc? How does this differ across the year – how far are dry season cattle camps effectively ‘closed’ markets with little economic interaction with the wider or surrounding economy?
d. What is the role and relative importance of sheep, goats and poultry in the livestock economy and how has this changed?
e. What is the current status of kinship relations and mutual obligation in the livestock economy? How has and is this changing? What are the drivers?
f. What has happened to the concentration of livestock ownership over the last decade? Is this the same for all forms of livestock? What is the effect of this on key practices, such as bride price payments?
g. How important is paid employment among members of cattle camps/herd management? Typically, in what forms are these people paid?
h. How has the viability of agro-pastoralism changed? What is the minimum herd size (in terms of tropical livestock units) in key locations in South Sudan and how does this compare with estimates from previous years? What are they key factors that affect this viability?
i. How long has it taken communities who have lost herds due to conflict and from animal diseases to rebuild their levels to viable numbers?
b. Livestock Markets
a. What are the supply chains to these markets? How wide an area do these markets serve? How far are the animals or their products traded in the market places then transported? Linked to this:
b. How far are the different livestock markets interlinked? For markets for which longitudinal livestock price data are available, what is the correlation between prices across these markets?
c. How are the prices for cattle set – what is the relative importance of the services the animals can provide, their value butchered versus their value for kinship purposes (bride price etc)?
d. Typically, how many animals of different types are traded daily in each market? How have the numbers traded changed since 2011 and what have been the drivers of any change (exploring both pull factors – greater demand so prices; and push factors – distress sales as herders become increasingly dependent on markets for grains etc.) What types and size of markets exist for livestock products (notably milk, eggs) and services (draft animals?).
e. To what extent is South Sudan linked into regional markets for livestock, either as an exporter or importer? If the latter, what is the scope for addressing any constraints to import substitution?
f. What are the main constraints to greater market deepening?
c. The Prospects for the Livestock Economy
a. What does the literature suggest are the trends in pastoral communities in other countries in the region (ownership concentration and patterns, market reach, etc.) that are likely in time to feature in South Sudan?
b. From a series of meetings with traders, cattle-keepers, humanitarian workers etc and people with a wider knowledge of livestock in the region, what trend changes are discernible?
c. In what ways and over what time scale are climatic changes likely to affect the patterns and viability of livestock-based livelihoods?
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