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The Politics of Livestock Sector Policy and the Rural Poor in Bolivia

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Publication date
Number of Pages
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Focus Region:
Latin America & the Caribbean
Focus Topic:
Institutions / Organizations
Type of Risk:
Policy & institutional
Fairfield, T.
University of California, Berkeley

This paper presents a case study of how livestock policies are made and implemented in a national context, and how they can be improved to better serve the interests of the poor. It seems that good opportunities for improving rural livelihoods in Bolivia through livestock policy are to be found in the camelid sector. Markets for camelid meat, fiber, and leather are currently small but hold significant potential to benefit poor herders in the Andean highlands.

The study used the key informant method supplemented with official documents, newspaper sources and recently published research on the livestock sector. Interviews helped reveal policymakers’ concerns, whereas field trips allowed the researcher to talk to a few peasants and learn their perspectives from the bottom. Newspapers contained many lively stories of how well-intentioned policies went awry at the implementation stage, while published research analyzed various political, institutional and technical aspects of policymaking in the sector.

The author concludes that given the weak state capacity the range of feasible public policies that could be implemented to foster pro-poor development is limited. The clearest role for the state lies in the realm of animal health and sanitation, in particular, the establishment and maintenance of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)-free zones, prevention programs to control the incidence of sarcocistiosis, a camelid parasite, and support for municipal governments in improving sanitary conditions in slaughterhouses. The National Service for Agricultural and Livestock Sanitation (SENASAG) is a relatively new government agency, created in 2000 to handle such animal disease issues. To date, however, it has focused most of its resources on establishing an FMD-free zone for cattle production in the eastern lowlands.

Three strategic entry points are recommended that can both improve the performance of the sector and the participation of the poor in productive activities.

A three page executive summary is also available in addition to this paper.