the NR group development professionals     

Smallstock in Development

A Toolbox on CD-ROM

Client: NR International Ltd.
Donor: DFID Livestock Production Programme (LPP)
Toolbox concept, compilation & development: Ken Campbell

The Importance of Smallstock
You are what you eat: Early Childhood Nutrition
Smallstock in Development CD-ROM


Livestock in general, and smallstock in particular, have an important role to play in enhancing the livelihoods of the poor by improving food security at household level and providing cash for household needs. Smallstock keepers, and those NGOs and agencies that work with or interact with them, need access to the considerable and growing body of information on smallstock husbandry and production. But how can the delivery of this information to those that need it be accomplished? The increasing number of computers and computer users provides a significant opportunity for distribution of information via CD-ROM. The Smallstock in Development toolbox forms a resource for use by NGOs, extension workers and others involved in livestock development.

The primary purpose of the Smallstock in Development Toolbox is to provide institutions or individuals that inform or interact with resource-poor livestock keepers with information on smallstock in an accessible manner to assist in tackling some of the problems they face. The toolbox provides a range of practical information, descriptions of techniques, fact-sheets and background material to assist in increasing sustainability and efficiency of smallstock production. Selected outputs are included from over 100 research projects carried out by DFID's Livestock Production Programme (LPP), Animal Health Programme (AHP) and other bodies. The toolbox additionally provides general background information and further reference material on smallstock, their importance, feeding and nutrition, as well as an introduction to aspects of livestock health and husbandry. Sections of the toolbox also deal with social and marketing aspects related to poor livestock keepers in particular, and include summaries or participatory and other techniques for communication and dissemination.

The Smallstock in Development CD-ROM

Most development related information can be included electronically in one format or another on CD-ROM, and there are few, if any, instances where the original material has not been created electronically. A single CD can hold a large amount of material, is cheap to reproduce and relatively easy to distribute in large numbers. Moreover, access to suitable personal computers (PCs) is increasing in the key target groups, in this case NGOs and extension agents working with smallstock keepers.

The Smallstock in Development toolbox provides a range of practical information, descriptions of techniques and fact-sheets to assist with increased survival of smallstock, and in increasing the sustainability of smallholder operations and the productivity of their animals. In order that users may make best use of this information, it is supported by a significant body of background material, technical information, further reading materials, and discussion of topics related to smallstock husbandry, feeding and nutrition, health, and the important field of nutrition-health interactions. Cross-cutting issues such as marketing, socio-economic interactions, gender, and the environment further contribute to increasing awareness of the inter-connected nature of many of the central issues.

The tools include technical interventions, husbandry advice, policy guidelines and empowerment suggestions. The overall scope is to improve the management of knowledge generated by research and generally improve the communication between farmers and the research institutions. The toolbox does not attempt to provide all the answers to what is clearly a large and complex topic, but is based on the experience of research carried out by the UK’s Department for International Development’s (DFID's) Livestock Production Programme (LPP) and other bodies.

In constructing the toolbox a number of simple guidelines were followed in the creation of individual documents or information on specific topics: jargon was avoided where possible, and explained where necessary; and simplicity rather than complexity was sought. The seven-Cs of effective communication – creative, credible, convincing, complete, current, clear, and concise – were borne in mind. However, the key to providing effective delivery of information includes not only the document containing the information itself, but ways of locating these documents, especially given that the users may not have a clear idea of what they are looking for, perhaps simply that there is a problem requiring a solution. It is also important to recognise that different users, with varying experience and diverse backgrounds will tend to use an information resource in different ways and focus on different components of the details provided.

The html format developed for use on the Internet provided a robust and flexible mechanism for delivery of much of the available information. Importantly, no additional software is required beyond the Internet browser installed by default on virtually all personal computers. Combined with the use of Adobe Acrobat pdf files and the free Acrobat reader software this format enabled an information resource to be constructed for, and tailored to, any given set of topics. Two different Acrobat installation files were provided on the CD to cater for both older and newer PCs. Concept maps additionally provided a visual means of illustrating the breadth and scope of information presented, as well as an intuitive means of navigation within the toolbox.


Concept map illustrating
the primary relationships
and information available
in the section on
Feeding and Nutrition

Information provided by the toolbox is text-based with diagrams and illustrations as appropriate. Photographs and other graphic images were added to provide additional interest. Menus, hyperlinks, in-text buttons or icons, and graphic images were all employed to assist the user in navigating from any chosen starting point to explore the available information. Colour was used for emphasis or to draw attention to specific topics.

The information content and navigation within the toolbox was further supported by a comprehensive full-text search mechanism, able to find text within both html and pdf documents.

The material on the CD-ROM includes more than 6,300 files contained in over 400 folders and sub-folders. These include over 1,800 linked html files and more than 700 Acrobat pdf files. Together with associated images, and a comprehensive search engine, this totals more than 600 Mbytes. Many of these documents, reports, fact-sheets or html pages can be printed and used as they are or read on-screen. Alternatively, the content of many html pages can be used and adapted by users (using a suitable text editor) and combined with additional locally available material and knowledge to prepare locally-specific and enhanced versions of individual topics.

The Importance of Smallstock

A significant number of research publications include some reference to the importance of smallstock. Typically the advantages and importance include the fact that when compared with larger livestock they are:

  • less costly to acquire,
  • are cheaper and easier to maintain,
  • and more convenient for consumption within the household.
  • Similarly, the death of a single animal is less damaging, whilst they tend to grow and breed faster and can often thrive on harsher terrain.

However, whilst all these are highly relevant, they miss what is probably one of the most important factors - the contribution to household nutrition provided by smallstock. For example, a small group of chickens can make a significant difference. This oversight is almost certainly because the major benefits are not directly related to primary "research goals" of improved livestock production but to human dietary needs, human health. In particular, the impact of nutritional factors on cognition and the ability to learn can be critical.

A review of information relating to smallstock and poverty highlighted the importance of nutritional factors on cognitive ability. A number of studies have indicated that malnutrition in early childhood has serious, long-term consequences, hindering motor, sensory, cognitive, social and emotional development. Malnourished children are more likely to perform poorly in school and are more likely to grow into malnourished adults - at greater risk of disease and early death. Development and improved education are clearly linked. The relationship between nutrition and learning also means that development is inextricably linked to childhood nutrition.

Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are linked to:

  • High child and maternal mortality rates (over 50% of child deaths),
  • Poor educational outcomes, lower productivity, and a consequent tendency towards increasing poverty,
  • Higher morbidity and mortality from infectious and non-communicable diseases.

Four major nutrition-related disorders have been shown to be linked to a reduced capacity for learning and a decreased cognition, and can be combated by a supply of eggs and milk:

Nutrition-related disorder Eggs Milk
Protein-Energy Malnutrition (PEM)
Iodine deficiency
Iron deficiency  
Essential fatty acids deficiency

Although there are a complex set of relationships involved, it is clear that the problems of Protein-Energy Malnutrition can to a large extent be solved through consumption of home-produced livestock products, especially eggs and milk, but of course also meat. Smallstock keeping by resource-poor households therefore has a significant potential for reducing the incidence and levels of PEM.

Of particular importance are the keeping of poultry for eggs and, in suitable localities, goats for milk production. A study by Alderman et al. (1997) concluded that “Private behaviors and public policies that affect the health and nutrition of children have much greater effect on school enrollment and on eventual productivity than suggested by early literature methods.”

The relevance for poverty reduction and development policy is clear, the simple message being:

You are what you eat

  • Promoting early childhood nutrition through an increased availability of livestock products, especially eggs and milk, can significantly enhance long-term cognitive development and school performance, especially in children with multiple nutritional deficits,
  • Improved economic performance is linked to improved education,
  • Development requires improved levels of education.
The promotion and development of smallstock keeping, and greater consumption of smallstock products therefore needs to be an integral component of overall development policy.

From an original drawing by Gareth Bath


Alderman, H., Behrman, J. Lavy, V. and Menon, R. (1997). Child nutrition, child health, and school enrolment. Policy Research Working Paper 1700. World Bank, Washington, D.C.


Page last updated October 2, 2013