Livestock: From Asset to Liability?

On the way to the Global Livestock Sustainability Conference in Thailand, I picked up a copy of the book “The Mystery of capital” by Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto. In it he describes how the concept of capital (which meant cattle or livestock in Medieval Latin) was derived from livestock – a movable, low-maintenance asset that is self reproducing. His description is dead-on, and pastoralists certainly have capitalized on the savings and asset function of their livestock. I have often observed that they dont need credit since they can always generate cash by selling a few animals. However, in the course of the  Livestock Revolution, livestock seems to turn into a source of liabililtes: significant investments are required in order to enter the industrial mode of production. Farmers are required to take up loans for erecting the housing for the animals.  Since they have no control over either input or product prices, they tend to end up heavily indebted with no opportunity the debt cycle. This is described for Thailand by Isabelle Delforge in her study of pig and poultry contract farming, as well as by various sources for the United States. It wold seem that this situation very much affects the “sustainability fo the livestock sector”, since it locks farmers/livestock keepers into a straight jacket that prevents them from adapting to changing economic situations.

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About ikrweb

I'm a researcher, writer and activist passionately believing in animal cultures rather than animal industries. Since about 20 years I have been making my home among the Raika, the traditional camel and sheep herders of Rajasthan in India, and observed how their life has been changing... how economic development, forest policies, population growth and other factors are impacting their traditional way of life. With the help of my colleagues from Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (www.lpps.org) and League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development (www.pastoralpeoples.org) I have been trying to support them in their struggle for cultural and economic survival. On this blog I would like to chronicle some of these efforts.
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