In Ethiopia, agricultural development is considered a priority by the government for stimulating overall economic growth, reducing poverty and achieving food security. The agricultural sector of Ethiopia accounts for about 42% of GDP and between 80–85% of employment (MoFED 2012).
Within agriculture, the livestock subsector provides an opportunity for further development. The sheer size of the national livestock herd, one of the largest in Africa, makes it a resource with potential to contribute significantly to national development, including poverty reduction. The Central Statistical Agency (CSA) survey of 2011/12 showed that the total cattle population of Ethiopia is about 52 million. Moreover, about 24.2 million sheep and 22.6 million goats are estimated to be found in the country, while the total poultry population is estimated to be about 45 million chickens (CSA 2011/12). The LSA projections for 2013 in this report show a further increase of the livestock numbers.
The livestock subsector is also already a major contributor to the overall economy. The livestock sector contributes 19% of the GDP, and 16–19% of the foreign exchange earnings of the country (MoA 2012). It contributes some 35% of agricultural GDP; or 45% if indirect contributions are taken into account (ILRI 2011). With a rapidly growing population, increasing urbanization, and rising incomes, domestic demand for meat, milk and eggs is expected to increase significantly in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, the country’s geographic location offers substantial opportunities for exportation, thus earning foreign exchange from livestock products, especially of red meat to the Gulf and within Africa, as well as leather, honey and other livestock products to Europe.
The livestock sector can also be a major contributor to poverty reduction by improving the livelihoods of rural people. Approximately 85% of Ethiopia’s population is rural based, and livestock supports the livelihoods of about 80% of rural people (ILRI 2011). However, the income of 30% of the rural population is below the poverty line (MoFED 2013). Livestock perform multiple functions in the rural household economy. Besides employment, livestock provides protein rich food, income for everyday expenses and social obligations, near liquid assets, a store of wealth for savings, manure for crop production and soil fertility, and transport (ILRI 2011). Livestock development also has the potential to positively impact urban consumers through lower animal product prices.