Livestock development and poverty alleviation: revolution or evolution for upland livelihoods in Lao PDR?
Livestock play a key role in the lives of poor, rural people in developing countries, providing a major proportion of their cash income, capital assets, draught power, fuel and fertilizer. Rapid growth in demand for meat and dairy products in Asia presents both opportunities and challenges for livestock development and poverty alleviation. This paper explores the potential of livestock intensification to benefit the livelihoods of upland households and meet market demand in the Lao Peoples' Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), a South East Asian country undergoing significant economic change. A review of the livestock sector in Asia shows increasing demand for live animals and meat in neighbouring Vietnam, Thailand and China. Lao PDR is well positioned to capitalize on the growing Asian livestock sector, however the extent livestock production in Lao PDR can reduce poverty, meet growing domestic meat demand and lift livestock exports is problematic. Findings from research in two upland northern provinces demonstrate how the introduction of forages for livestock has revolutionized the lives of some farmers and villages, but concludes that strategies are still needed to engage poorer households. The impacts of changing domestic and export markets are less certain, and are discussed within the context of environmental and public health, cultural traditions, economic development and sustainable livelihoods.