The nation was recently engaged in a debate on the rearing of livestock in residential areas. This debate arose from reports that the mayor of the city of Lusaka was keeping Friesian cows at his residential place. The aim of this article is not to debate whether the mayor is right or wrong, but rather present the current status of the peri-urban and urban livestock rearing in Lusaka District.

Let me start by stating that, “In the beginning, there was livestock, and then the city came”. You may ask, what is urban agriculture? Well, Urban agriculture (often differentiated as intra-urban and peri-urban agriculture) can be defined as the production of food (for example, vegetables, fruits, meat, eggs, milk, fish) and non-food items (for example, fuel, herbs, ornamental plants, tree seedlings, flowers) within the urban area and its periphery, for home consumption and/or for the urban market, and related small-scale processing and marketing activities (including street vending of fresh or prepared food and other products)”(Alice Hovorka, 2009). Urban agriculture is a recognized concept that is practised by 800 million people in urban areas worldwide. It is vital for the social, economic and ecological sustainability of the urban regions. It is for this reason that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has rendered support to urban agriculture through the Food for Cities Initiative ( Despite the magnitude of urban agriculture, it happens inconspicuously and even illegally against local laws and policies.

Urban livestock farming is a component of urban agriculture. It is a significant economic activity practiced in many cities in the developed and developing world. In Africa, Dar e salaam, Nairobi, Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Dakar, Ouagadougou, Banjul and Accra are some of the cities actively practicing urban livestock farming (Abu Hatab et al., 2019; Wilson, 2018). Similarly, Zambian cities are no exception (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Total Farming vs urban households in Zambia
Urban livestock farming has obvious benefits, such as improved food security and income generation. It also has associated risks such as exposure of the urban population to chemical and biological hazards such as wastewater and zoonotic diseases, respectively (Boischio et al., 2006). Urban livestock production is projected to increase, mainly due to increased demand and a possible increased production response (Thornton, 2010).

Urban livestock farming in Lusaka
Have you ever wondered why the major poultry hatcheries, feed mills, abattoirs, live livestock markets, even a maize bran market near airport roundabout are all proximal to the city? Simply put; urban livestock production is big business!
What livestock is kept in Lusaka?

Figure 2 Livestock farming households in Lusaka

According to the 2010 Census, Lusaka had around 20,000 livestock-farming households (Figure 2). About 8000 households had mixed livestock enterprises. Nearly 4000 households were purely keeping poultry. The recent livestock and aquaculture census conducted in 2017 does not disaggregate data per district, so it is difficult to tell the individual district contribution. But we can hypothesize the majority of nearly 2.5 million broilers and 870,000 layers reported in Lusaka province is in urban and peri-urban areas of Lusaka. The recent census gives numbers about other livestock. However, the general trend in cities is that ruminant (cows, goats, sheep) production is reducing while “landless” animal production (poultry and pigs) is increasing.
Why keep livestock in urban areas?

There are several drivers to livestock production in urban areas. Firstly, urban areas are a massive market for these products. In order to be competitive, they are produced as close to the market as possible. Simatele and Binns, (2008) conducted a study on urban agriculture in three residential areas of Chilenje, Garden compound and seven miles. The study concluded that “majority” of the surveyed households were involved in farming, and the major reasons were “household food security”, to supplement incomes.

Risks of urban livestock farming
The benefits of urban livestock farming in urban areas should be weighed against the risks. Urban livestock farming is a potential hazard to public health, animal health and a source of pollution. As a public health hazard, poor hygiene could lead to piling up of animal dung, attracting flies, zoonoses and other parasites. Multiplication of rodents has been observed in poultry and piggeries. There are also concerns about product quality that does not pass through the regulatory systems. In the same way, it would affect human health; it could be a source of major animal disease outbreaks. Pollution of air and water sources by means of offensive smells and waste discharge is well documented. Animal noises are an inconvenience to communities.

Legal and policy challenges to urban livestock production
The study by Simatele (2008) observed that “unsupportive policy” existed because urban farming has been treated as a “peripheral issue in urban development strategies and planning policy”. Simply put; raising livestock in urban areas is illegal! But should it be?

In conclusion, I recommend that further studies be undertaken to “quantify” the magnitude of livestock production, trade volumes and value. With accurate information, the urban livestock enterprises should be provided for in terms of legal and policy framework to deal with both benefits and the risks involved. The urban livestock enterprises can be provided for in terms of legal and policy framework to deal with both advantages and the risks involved. FAO has a support framework for policy development for urban livestock production, and there is available human resource to manage potential risks. If harnessed correctly, urban livestock rearing is a huge source of income for municipalities.

The author is a Veterinarian and Doctoral candidate at The University of Zambia and Ghent
Email: [email protected], Phone: 0977324399.