Local Livestock for Empowerment of Rural People (LIFE)

Local Livestock For Empowerment (the LIFE Network) is an action research and advocacy network of organizations and individuals who are concerned about the future of local livestock breeds, and about the people who rely on these animals for their livelihoods.

The bulk of the world’s some 7,600 documented livestock breeds have been developed by farmers and herders over centuries of breeding and selection. These breeds are adapted to often-harsh conditions – deserts, icy mountains, tropical forests, drought-prone savannah. They are hardy, resistant to pests and diseases, and able to survive on meagre feed and little water. In difficult conditions, they produce a wide range of products, pull ploughs and carts, and produce dung to use as fuel and fertilizer.

However, many breeds are dying out. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a breed becomes extinct almost every month. An estimated 20% of breeds are thought to be at risk. Pushed out by economic and social changes, they are being replaced by exotic breeds – such as the famous black-and-white Holstein Frisian cow – that produce more, but are more costly to keep.

To stop this trend, LIFE promotes the sustainable use and conservation of local breeds.

The LIFE Network

Formed in 2000, the LIFE Network sees pastoralists and small-scale livestock keepers as central actors in biodiversity conservation. It believes in using local breeds as a basis for sustainable rural development. It seeks to support production systems which benefit livestock keepers, their animals, biodiversity, the environment and the consumer.

LIFE Network goals

  • Conserve livestock diversity in-situ, in their original environments.
  • Empower livestock keepers who conserve biodiversity and involve them in national and international policy processes.
  • Promote socially inclusive and ecologically sustainable livestock farming that is in tune with nature.
  • Support the development of diverse products from local breeds through research, appropriate technologies, value addition and marketing.
  • Strengthen rural income opportunities based on local breeds.
  • Advocate holistic conservation approaches which preserve all components of biodiversity: wildlife, local livestock breeds or species, ecosystems, and traditional wisdom.


LIFE Network activities have focused on seven areas:

Organization of the LIFE Network

The LIFE Network consists of a core group of active members and a wider network of supporting partners who adhere to a common Charta. It has a board, a secretariat and regional coordinators for Africa and Asia.

Membership is open to non-government organizations working at the grassroots level, herders’ associations, scientists, volunteers and individual supporters.


LIFE Network International
Ilse Köhler-Rollefson
League for Pastoral Peoples and Endogenous Livestock Development
Pragelatostrasse 20
64372 Ober-Ramstadt, Germany

LIFE  Network India
Hanwant Singh Rathore
Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan
P.O. Box 1
Sadri 306702. District Pali, Rajasthan, India

LIFE Africa
Jacob Wanyama
Nairobi, Kenya


Local Livestock For Empowerment. The LIFE Network, undated.