Livestock and livelihoods in South Sudan

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Andy Catley
K4D (Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development)
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In South Sudan agro-pastoralism is the main livelihood system in rural areas. Although agro-pastoralism involves both livestock rearing and crop production, a household’s financial capital is held in the form of livestock. Livestock also supply milk and other foods, and are sold to purchase cereals for food and meet other domestic needs. Poorer households aim to build their herds; this is the key and economically logical strategy for building their financial capital. Due to the seasonality of food production, milk is a critical food at specific times of year, when other foods e.g. cereals, are not readily available. Milk is an especially important food for young children, and pregnant and lactating mothers. Livestock is also important in South Sudan’s pastoralist and agrarian areas.
In addition to the role of livestock as financial capital and food, traditional social support systems in South Sudan are based on livestock transactions. In particular, the use of livestock as bridewealth creates social networks, with reciprocal assistance in times of hardship. An individual’s vulnerability depends heavily on their social connectedness, and social connections are created and maintained through livestock exchanges. This critical role of livestock in South Sudan is difficult to quantify, but has huge significance in communities facing crises such as protracted conflict and market failures. Further information on the impact of conflict on livestock is provided in recent the K4D report Livestock and conflict in South Sudan (Idris, 2018).
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