Rural smallholder farmers, like Lorenzo Rodas Ischalon from Peru, rely on livestock for their livelihoods. Photo: Paul Brigham/Tearfund

From: Livestock – Footsteps 89

The importance of livestock and how to treat and manage animals well

In the last decade, animal loan or ‘pass-on’ schemes have been started all over the world. Usually an animal is given to a chosen beneficiary by an organisation, government body or church, with an agreement that a number of its offspring will be passed on to others in the community or back to the scheme organisers to start a new project. In some cases, particularly with male pack animals (used for traction or transport), loans will be repaid in cash rather than by passing on offspring. Such schemes have brought many blessings to families and communities.

However, starting an animal loan scheme is a serious project which should not be undertaken without careful thought and preparation. To help readers to think about this process, Footsteps has put together some questions to answer, either individually or in a group. You can also read advice from organisations around the world which have run their own schemes here.

Choice of beneficiaries

Choice of animal


Feed and water

Loan agreements

Animal health

Knowledge of livestock management


With thanks to Send a Cow for their advice on this feature. For more on their work, visit

Loan scheme experiences from around the world 

Experience from Afghanistan
‘The Eastern Region Community Development Project (ERCDP) trained community elders and Shura (village committee) members about the importance of sustainability and self-sufficiency. As a result, both Shura members and community elders are taking responsibility for the scheme and are willing to help poor and vulnerable families by acting as loan guarantors. They also help to select vulnerable community members and contribute financially to all aspects of the programme.’ 
SERVE – Afghanistan
Experience from Malawi
‘The greatest impact of the scheme among community members is that it reached many vulnerable beneficiaries after starting with just a few. They have been able to improve their food security by making money from selling livestock. Some use the money to pay school fees as well as to buy uniforms and school materials for their children.’
EAGLES – Malawi
Experience from Zambia
‘Our parents used to have a lot of cattle and goats. Around 1990, animals started dying of diseases until we did not have even one single animal. Our lives changed suddenly, we had no milk, no money to pay for our school fees, we started using hand hoes for farming and the demand for inorganic fertilisers increased because we didn’t have any cow dung. In 2008, the Brethren in Christ Church (BICC) selected us to receive a cow and an ox on loan to use for draught power. After farming for two years we managed to pay back the loan and buy one more ox. Now we have three new animals in addition to the two we received initially. 
BICC trained us on how to manage our animals. They also helped us with materials to construct a dip tank where all the people in the area dip their animals. At first it was difficult to manage these animals according to the necessary standards, but now we are managing well and we are happy. The animals are affordable and payments are flexible.’ 
Ather Mudenda, Zambia (a BICC beneficiary)

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