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A large part of the land mass covered by IGAD member states (MSs) falls under arid and semi-arid climatic conditions with less than 400mm of rainfall annually, making the region prone to recurrent droughts. The predominant livelihood system is pastoral and agro-pastoral livestock production which constitutes the only viable economic activity in these fragile ecosystems. The nomadic lifestyle of the pastoralists entails a constant search for pasture and freshwater resources with frequent cross-border conflicts and animal disease transmission that require regional approaches and coordinated actions.

Livestock are core to pastoral livelihoods and pastoral identity, and livestock products contribute significantly as the main sources of food and income. Livestock also serve as key buffers to shocks, particularly the frequent droughts in the region. Large herd sizes ensure viable herd sizes after droughts despite the drought-related mortalities. Although ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats and camels) and donkeys are the main livestock holdings, small ruminants are the predominant species and most important productive assets of the livestock- dependent communities in the IGAD region. Small ruminants provide the day to day needs for household nutrition particularly for women and children in pastoral areas. They also contribute more than 80% of the livestock exports from the IGAD region and the foreign currency incomes from this trade enable the imports of food and other commodities to ensure food security of the populations in livestock producing areas. Thus, the protection of small ruminants against the effects of natural disasters enhances the ability of communities and households to withstand shocks. In addition, small ruminants are highly prolific thus enabling rapid rebuilding of flock sizes following natural disasters and contributing to the resilience of the affected communities.

The region is the leading exporter of live animals in Africa, contributing 42% of the exports from the continent. Although Africa is a net importer of livestock products, the IGAD region is the only region in Africa that is self-sufficient in its meat requirements. The incomes derived from livestock trade contribute to the livelihoods of the different value chain actors and support the food security of households beyond those directly involved in livestock production. Livestock trade also contributes to regional integration by connecting livestock producing areas to regional markets and the improvement of this aspect is considered a key driver for economic development in the region.

However, the nature of the cross-border trade poses challenges to national and local-level authorities, in terms of revenue collection, border security and the management and control of TADs.

Throughout Africa, the livestock sector is seriously constrained by inadequate public and private sector investments to enhance its contribution to the development of the African continent, despite its great leverage potential. This situation assumes even greater importance in the IGAD region where livestock production and trade contribute significantly to the national and agricultural GDPs of the member states. Despite the abundance of livestock in the pastoral areas, the pastoralist communities across Africa remain among the most marginalized and face common problems of low productivity of indigenous livestock breeds, poor physical infrastructure, limited access to markets and appropriate information, poor communication, limited or lack of access to financial capital and limited access to crucial inputs and services to enhance livestock production within their environments. Pastoralists also face the threat of dwindling pastures for their flocks. Pastoral areas have inadequate public and private animal health service providers, mainly due to lack of appropriate incentives and enabling environments to effectively operate in the areas. Veterinarians, animal production and environmental service professionals operating in pastoral areas tend to be based in the urban areas and the pastoral communities in the remote areas do not have adequate and timely access to their services.