Sustainable Animal Productivity for Livelihoods, Nutrition, and Gender Inclusion (SAPLING)


Globally, livestock is the fastest-growing, highest-value agricultural subsector, accounting for 15–80% of GDP in low- and middle-income countries. At the same time, malnutrition remains high in livestock dependent communities. In Africa and Asia, demand is expected to skyrocket 200% by 2030, an enormous opportunity for hundreds of millions of small- to medium-scale livestock producers who can meet the demand and provide nutrient-dense foods for their families, countries, and regions.

But productivity is extremely low: the average annual milk yield of a cow in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia is 6% and 12%, respectively, of a cow in an OECD country. Value chain governance structures prevent producers from fully benefiting from markets and commercializing their farms. Women, who do most of the work caring for livestock, have limited control over resources and decisions, and youth are marginalized from income-generation opportunities and assets. Non-optimal use of livestock genetic potential, lack of quality feeds, poor animal husbandry, and insufficient animal health technologies are widespread constraints to sustainable productivity, leading to increased pressure on natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, livestock producers face new risks from climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Innovations in improved forages, breeding programs, herd health, and markets have demonstrated sustainable gains in on-farm productivity but need to reach impact at scale. More broadly, evidence for decisions is lacking, resulting in underinvestment by the private sector and weak policies, limiting scaling potential. New research approaches are needed to generate solutions that incentivize and enable producers to invest in sustainable production and achieve better livelihoods.


This Initiative aims to enable one million livestock producers (50% women) in six countries to engage in inclusive value chains and achieve sustainable productivity gains of 30–50%, resulting in improved livelihoods.

This will be achieved by:

  • Leveraging livestock’s huge ability to drive change for women and youth by providing evidence to decision-makers on how and why to be inclusive.
  • Promoting approaches to ensure that the benefits of increased productivity translate into healthy, sustainable diets through consumption of safe animal source foods.
  • Filling critical productivity and value-chain competitiveness gaps by developing a pipeline of new and existing demand-driven health, genetics, feed, and market systems innovations.
  • Supporting inclusive development in seven value chains with high potential for small- and medium-scale producers to capture market growth.
  • Co-creating innovation packages that address not only technology requirements but also necessary market structures, capacity, and policies, and work with “next user” partners as a starting point to achieve scale.
  • Facilitating innovations to reach producers in four countries with quick wins for scaling, and two countries where relationships will be built and packages co-created, generating evidence and lessons.
  • Leveraging these results to scale approaches that motivate producers to invest in sustainable production in other countries and to stimulate investment globally in sustainable livestock production.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Private and public sector partners invest at least US$30 million in co-development and dissemination of novel, climate-smart, demand-driven, gender and youth inclusive, and productivity-enhancing technologies and practices for genetics, feed/forages, and health.
  2. Twelve public and private sector nutrition education strategies and/or campaigns incorporate Initiative-developed social behavior change communication strategies and tools for incorporating safe animal-source foods into a diverse diet leading to increased access to nutrition education. Value chain partners invest in innovative strategies and business models for reaching consumers with affordable animal-source foods.
  3. Public and private decision-makers in four countries use Initiative-generated evidence, knowledge, and tools to advance equality and social inclusion in five livestock value chains, resulting in increased and beneficial participation by 400,000 women and 150,000 youth. Evidence on successful approaches to increase equity and inclusion informs investments and policies with global reach.
  4. One million women and men livestock keepers in six countries adopt the Initiative-supported co-created, demand-driven innovation packages, transitioning their systems to sustainable, climate-smart production while engaging in well-functioning, inclusive livestock value chains that provide transparent and efficient output markets, resulting in a 30–50% increase in livestock productivity.
  5. Public and private decision makers utilize Initiative-developed tools and recommendations to inform: a) policies and investments in six countries, resulting in better animal health, feed, and genetics policies, as well as reduced barriers to inclusive value chains; and b) global dialogue on livestock’s contribution to livelihoods, leading to increased investment in sustainable livestock production.



Women, youth, and other marginalized groups have equal opportunity to participate in and benefit from strengthened livestock value-chains, leading to increased livestock ownership, decision-making, and control over income.


Availability of safe, affordable, and micro-nutrient dense animal-source foods significantly increased through increased livestock productivity and better-functioning value chains. Behavior change of consumers and other actors, including incorporation of recommended quantities of animal-source foods in the diet, and safe animal-source foods handling practices.


Demand-driven productivity-enhancing innovation packages made available to livestock producers. Producers enabled to participate in well-functioning and growing inclusive livestock value chains, leading to a doubling in sustainable livestock productivity, increased cash income for producers, and business opportunities and jobs for value chain actors.


EProducers provided with the knowledge, tools, climate-adapted innovations, and well-functioning value chains needed to increase productivity from low levels, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emission intensity.


Producers supported to achieve higher resource use efficiency, improve manure management, and appropriately manage livestock health to reduce residues. Preservation and enhancement of agro-biodiversity of livestock breeds (for select species) and feeds through genetic and feed improvement programs.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: A young woman with her goats in Borana, Ethiopia. Photo by Z. Sewunet/ILRI.